As our vehicle crossed the borders of Gujarat and went deeper into Rajasthan, the landscape changed to unobstructed views resplendent with sand dunes and tiny thorny shrubs and bushes. Some how the pale winter sun made everything shimmer and it hardly felt like we were in the desert district of Rajasthan: Jaiselmer. Ethereal experience.
So this blog post is about a recent visit to Rajasthan, a land so associated with colour, warmth, tourism and food that it was odd to see this quiet peaceful but pale stretch of land with hardly any traces of civilisation around. Unlike what you must be thinking, this post is not about the well known Jaiselmer fort. Oh no no . Its about a not so secret gem of a building : Patwon ki Haveli
Haveli is a hindi word for mansions. Now, I must confess, before my travel to Jaiselmer, I had never heard of this place.
A brief history: legend has it that the patwas were immensely successful after leaving Jaiselmer (on the advise of a priest) and their business spanned across banking & finance, silver, brocade and opium trade.
Eventually, patwas rose to such heights that they were called upon to finance the state deficit. This brought the clan back to their old habitat. The then head of the family, Ghuman Chand Patwa, decided to gift each of his five sons a separate and elaborate mansion, ignoring the advice of the priest. Thus came up the five grandiose havelis facing the Jailsamer Fort. (source: http://patwahaveli.com)
Unlike a typical mansion in India, Patwon ki haveli is devoid of any gardens (for obvious reasons!!) or rich iron gates with massive pillars. It stands looming large, slap bang in the middle of a busy busy street, quietly waiting for the onslaught of awestruck tourists and art and craft lovers like yours truly.The facade seems to have faded through years of erosion, but once you cross the gate, its difficult to close your mouth hanging open in total wonderment of the intricately carved exterior.
Intricately carved stone exterior. Floral Geometry achieved through supreme craftsmanship!
Believe me when I say, I have yet to see the likes of it. The gold hues of the stone used in constructing the building adds to the opulent elegance of the architecture.
It is fascinating to observe that the interior, while still being opulent, is fairly staid, to balance the exterior. Furniture, fixtures and even cooking vessels and tableware (aha now we are talking!) are painstakingly preserved to give us a glimpse of the Patwa family’s lifestyle You get sucked into the their daily lives and are transported to times gone by.
So feast your eyes on this visual delight from Patwon ki haveli and make sure the next time you decide to travel to Jaiselmer, do give this beauty a shout.
Enjoy and don’t forget to share any snippets you may have about Patwon ki haveli.