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Havelis in Jhunjhunu

Havelis in Jhunjhunu

It may sound astounding; but in Jhunjhunu, the private residences of some of the rich merchants of the town have now become important places of tourist interest. Known as havelis, these mansions are famous all over the world for their beautiful frescos and murals.

Havelis in Jhunjhunu

In Western India and also in parts of Pakistan the word haveli is used to connote private mansions.  The term was derived from Persian hawli, which means an enclosed space. However, if we look back into the history, we will find that the term was first used in Rajasthan by the Vaishnava Sects. The huge temples dedicated to Lord Krishna in Gujarat were initially called havelis. These temples were not only big in size, but their walls were adorned with beautiful frescos depicting the life history of Lord Krishna.  Later other gods and goddesses were also depicted through murals in these temples.

We do not exactly know when private mansions began to follow such temple architecture. However, in Jhunjhunu, the trend began after Sardul Singh took charge of the kingdom in 1730. He invited merchants from far and near to set up their business in this town. As their business began to flourish, they began to build havelis for their own use. Some of the havelis are also built by royal employees. Today these havelis have become a major tourist attraction in this city.

Architecture of Jhunjhunu Havelis

Havelis in Jhunjhunu

Although the idea may have been derived from the temple architecture of Gujarat the influence of Islamic architecture on the havelis of Jhunjhunu is quite evident. In fact, we can say that the havelis in Jhunjhunu are a mixture of Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture. The frescos on their walls are also of varied nature. They not only depict gods and goddesses, but also animals, birds, geographical forms etc. In later period, the portrayed of the owners of the havelis were also drawn on the walls showing a distinct European trend.

Frescos at Jhunjhunu Havelis

Frescos at the Havelis

However, they have one thing in common. Frescos in all these havelis are very colorful and in some of them, these frescos cover every inch of the walls. It is to be remembered that the Jhunjhunu is located in a semi arid land, which is rather drab and colorless. May be to counter such lack of color, people there not only wore colorful attire, but also painted their homes with colorful frescos and murals. The havelis of Jhunjhunu, built by the rich merchants of this city, is a pointer to such a fact. In some havelis even the ceilings are covered by such frescos.  Modi Haveli, belonging to Seth Ishwardas Mohan Das Modi, is one the most popular tourist destinations of the town.

Ishwardas Mohan Das Modi Haveli in Jhunjhunu

Modi Haveli from Outside

This haveli has been the home of the Modi family for long. Like many other havelis in Jhunjhunwala, this haveli has also been constructed around a courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded by corridors, which lead to its numerous rooms. The walls of this haveli are set ablaze by a riot of colors. Intricate frescos in red, green and golden are truly eye catching and so are the intricately designed jhorokas.

These jharokas allowed the ladies to have a look into the outside world without being seen.
The frescos in Modi Haveli depict different gods and goddesses. Incidents in the life of Shri Krishna are favorite themes in these murals. Other than that, different animals, birds, flowers as well as geographical forms have been depicted quite vividly through fresco works in the haveli. In later period, these frescos show an influence of European art and we find portraits of the owners depicted on the walls.

Kaniram Narsingh Das Tibrewala Haveli in Jhunjhunu

Kaniram Narsingh Das Tibrewala Haveli is another place of tourist interest in Jhunjhunu. It was built by the said gentleman in 1883. The frescos in this haveli depict the socio economic state of affairs at that period.  Among many outstanding frescos, one depicts a train packed with farm animals crossing another train with human passengers in it. Gold is used quite liberally in many of these frescos.

Narudin Farooqi Haveli in Jhunjhunu

 Unlike most other havelis in Jhunjhunu Narudin Farooqi Haveli belongs to a Muslim family. The architecture of the haveli as well as the frescos inside the building shows a distinctive Mughal influence. The predominant color here is blue and white while the theme is mostly floral.

Some Other Havelis in Jhunjhunu

Frescos on the walls

Other than these three, there are many other havelis scattered all over the city. Among them, the havelis built by the Tibrewalas need special mention. The Tibrewalas belonged to a big clan of merchants in Jhunjhunu. Apart from the Kaniram Narsingh Das Tibrewala Haveli, there are also seven other havelis built by the clan.  Among these seven, the Shri Ram Jait Ram Tibrewal Haveli also needs special mention.

Beside the Tibrewala Havelis, we should also mention Khetan Haveli and Bala Bux Tulshan Havel. All these havelis at Jhunjhunu are important from other aspects also. They not only indicate the state of business and economy of that era, but they also show us how art and architecture flourished under the patronage of rich traders. Therefore, we can safely say that these havelis of Jhunjhunu are not just dwelling homes of the rich or mere places of tourist interest. They are the heritage of the town and must be preserved for prosperity.

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