India is an intoxicating mix of history, culture, heritage and art. No matter the direction you drive in, there is plenty to discover, plenty to experience and plenty to admire. For the sixth instalment of the Pride of India series, we made our way to northeast Rajasthan for a drive through the annals of history. But first, we had a five hour, 250 odd kilometre journey from Delhi to Alsisar that lay ahead of us and we had at our disposal the new Hyundai Verna that isn’t just a delight from behind the wheel but pampers its occupants with segment-first features like ventilated seats. The route led us out of Delhi into Harayana before leading us to Rajasthan’s remarkably well-paved roads cutting through the arid landscape.
Tracing its origins all the way back to the 15th century, the Shekhawati region encompasses the districts of Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Churu and parts of Nagaur and Jaipur. Maharao Shekha, a 15th-century Rajput leader, is credited with being the founder of the region hence, the name – Shekhawati. Over the next couple of centuries, trade in the region flourished resulting in a rise in the number of wealthy businesses driven chiefly by Marwari families. The defining trait of this region, one that has been preserved to an extent in its original form, is the grand havelis strewn across villages and towns located in the aforementioned districts. A large majority of these havelis sprung up between the 18th century and the early 20th century as homes of wealthy affluent families. These havelis became symbols of prosperity characterised by intricate architecture and elaborate murals painted across their walls.
Most Shekhawati towns sprung up along busy trade routes, some of which were even