Shekhavati, Havelis and Kamal Morarka Haveli Museum


Rajasthan is roughly the shape of a diamond with the great Thar Desert at its heart. The rugged Aravalli range divides Shekhavati into two unequal parts. Entering diagonally from Danta Ramgarh, the hills stretch to Khandela, Udaipurwati and Khetri to terminate at Delhi. Unlike the frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora, the wall paintings of the havelis or mansions of Shekhavati bring us closer to more current Indian life. This region has been home to the Marwari community, which for more than a century has been the backbone of commercial entrepreneurship in India. The genealogy of trading and industrial houses of the country indicate that most of them have their roots in some town or village in Shekhavati. The area being totally arid and local opportunities being extremely limited, enterprising men moved out of their homeland to try their luck and the rest is history, recorded on the picturesque walls of Shekhavati: a history of wealth, and a lively, ostentatious lifestyle.

At the turn of the 19th century, new motifs began appearing on these walls which were characteristic of the Raj’s influence on Indian culture. Cars, planes, portraits of the primly dressed owners of havelis, gramophones and English “sahebs” in hunting attire all pose in brilliant colours on their massive canvases. The region thus came to have a veritable heart of wall paintings, town after town and village after village, which in their abundance remain unmatched in the world.

Nawal Singh, the fourth of five brothers, founded this town in 1737. There was already a village on the site and he built a fort, a Gopinath temple and surrounded the site with walls. The place boasted three forts and managed to keep its estates relatively undivided and thus remained quite prosperous. More...

Nawal Singh encouraged some merchants from Jaipur to settle here. The Patodia family claim to be among the first to arrive. Since the town was successful and the rulers relatively benevolent, the Bania community thrived and more families came to join them. From this town came the branch of the Choudhary clan which is known throughout India as Goenka. Many other banias flourished, the names of some clearly stating their origins: Jaipuria, Sanganeria etc. This is the town where the finest of Shekhavati’s frescoes can be seen. Its havelis still bear witness to the rich and prosperous Marwari era of the 19th century.


The planning of the haveli was mainly conceived around the social context and the climate. This is clearly evident from the fact that all the havelis of Shekhavati are planned around courtyards and a majority incorporate two courtyards while a few have three or four courtyards.

The social context: The prevalence of the purdah system in the Rajput family and the customs of Shekhavati resulted in an introverted house, the courtyard planning being the only solution to creating a separation between the male and female members of the family. The inner courtyard for women was refered to as the zenana and the outer forecourt for men was the mardana. The zenana was intended for in-housing domestic activities like cooking, washing,

drying and looking after children which were activities performed mainly by women. The mardana was meant for the male members to carry out their business and commerce. The men spent their day in the forecourt and retired into the inner court for the night. The third broadly defined area of the haveli was the nohra or the service yard.

The climate: From the point of view of Shekhavati’s hot, dry summers and fairly severe winters, one would surely applaud the designers of these havelis. The courtyards form the main source for natural light and ventilation. They are small in dimension compared to the height, to keep away the sun and remian cool throughout the day. Extended floors form a shading device for the numerous small windows on the facade.


The Morarkas are Vaishya-Garg Agrawals. They have their origins in Sikar. During changes in the political set up in 1813, many merchants, including the Morarkas left Sikar. The Morarka family migrated to Nawalgarh where they were provided shelter and security by the ruler of Nawalgarh and they established their business there. The Morarkas have built a number of buildings including havelis, temples and wells. One of those buildings is Morarka Haveli which is a landmark in Nawalgarh located in Naya Bazaar. It was built in 1900 by Shri Jairamdasji Morarka, a connoisseur and patron of the arts. The haveli depicts the varied motifs prevalent at that time through the paintings on its walls. Even after a century the frescoes are preserved in good condition. The haveli has been opened to public upon the wishes and efforts of the present owner and descendant Shri Kamal M. Morarka, a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts. -