Churu was the hub for prosperous Marwari merchants who traded in textile, spices and opium, they travelled across the world and brought back stories of their experiences of the world, and depicted them in paintings on walls outside and inside their havelies (homes) all across the town.
Each merchant’s haveli, was a sprawling mansion with several rooms. As time progressed, these merchants moved their business to Kolkata, New Delhi and Mumbai, leaving their ancestral properties behind in disarray.
Churu is like a ghost town. There are more than 100 havelis within a short radius, each grander than the other. The paintings and frescos on these depict the lives of the owners and futuristic concepts such as trains and luxurious cars. There are also several stories depicted; even of love and war. Paintings of Maharaja Ganga Singh can be seen on almost all havelis as he was the ruler of Bikaner and Churu who bestowed a lot of favours on the merchants of the place. Despite harsh weather, the frescos are vivid and bright, as if painted only recently. One could imagine it in all its past glory while walking through the lanes of the town, while it was a bustling centre of commerce.
Grand in terms of the work done, no two doors in these havelis are alike or ordinary; one can spend an entire day admiring them!
On our walking tour we stopped by at the grand Jain temple in the middle of town. Contrasting to the decrepit town, the Jain temple built and managed by the Kothari family is absolutely stunning and in perfect shape. The opulence inside this temple strongly contradicts the simplicity of a typical Jain temple but is a true reflection of the wealthy citizens of the town. There are strong European influences in the designing of the temple is a sight to behold!
Where to stay while you’re here: Malji Ka Kamra played the perfect host for us while we were at Churu. They organized the perfect Heritage Walk and a visit to the art and craft village, making it an eventful day worth every minute. The food had local flavours and vegetables and everything from service to the comfort of the rooms was just right.
The Art still lives on…
There is so much more to the town of Churu, beyond the beautifully painted Shekhawati havelis.
Although the havelis are in ruin since their owners have abandoned them, the art in the people of Churu still lives on. While we were there, we visited the Textile screen printing people, the potters and ‘magicians of sandalwood’ as I would like to call them, each more outstanding than the others in their pursuit of art.