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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

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