The Wall Street Journal looks at the Central Indian region that houses thousands of opulent homes built by India’s merchant princes:
The Shekhawati region in northeast Rajasthan has about 20 townships, all of which are veritable open-air museums of crumbling havelis. Of the roughly 5,000 havelis that dot this semi-arid area, more than half are beyond repair, says Dr. Basandani, who worked with the Department of Archeology and Museums of Rajasthan in Jaipur for 30 years. The ones left standing, he says, are clustered around the forts of Shekhawati. About 1,000 of those havelis feature the fabled frescoes favored by the wealthy trading families that were known as Marwari. [ . . . ]
Originally, the term “haveli” was used to describe the temples of a Hindu sect, which featured colorful frescoes illustrating Hindu myths. From the early 1800s, Shekhawati’s wealthy families imitated and incorporated this style into their mansions, most of which were built between 1820 and 1930. In other parts of Rajasthan, havelis are famous for their stone carvings. In Shekhawati, what’s remarkable are the frescoes and the sheer number of havelis.
At the Morarka haveli, Basandani Hotchand, a preservationist and archaeologist, with a small team of workers spent four years cleaning frescoes. In all, some 700 wall paintings were treated, 160 wooden doors and windows were repaired and brass fixtures were restored at a cost of two million rupees (about $40,000).
A Home Alone (Wall Street Journal)