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Historical Region of North India
Shekhawati (शेखावाटी)

Mandawa fort
Location Northern Rajasthan Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
19th-century flag
Jaipur Princely State
Flag of Jaipur.svg
State established: 1445
Language Shekhawati
Dynasty Shekhawats (1445-1949),branch of Kachawa Dynasty of Jaipur
Historical capitals Amarsar, Shahpura
Separated states Thikanas of Shekhawati: Khandela, Khatu, Khood, Sikar, Pentalisa, Kalipahari, Panchpana, Khetri, Bissau & Surajgarh,etc.

Shekhawati (Hindi: शेखावाटी, IAST: Śekhāwāṭī) is a semi-arid historical region located in the northeast part of Rajasthan, India.

Shekhawati is located in North Rajasthan comprising districts like Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Churu and Nagaur. History has it that in the 18th and 19th centuries, Marwari merchants constructed these grand havelis in the Shekhawati region. Steeped in wealth and affluence, these merchants got busy outdoing others in building more grand edifices - homes, temples, step wells which were richly decorated both inside and outside with painted murals.[1] It is bounded on the northwest by the Jangladesh region, on the northeast by Haryana, on the east by Mewat, on the southeast by Dhundhar, on the south by Ajmer, and on the southwest by the Marwar region.

Its area is 13784 square kilometers.[2] The inhabitants of Shekhawati are considered brave, sacrificing and hard working people. The region provides the highest number[according to whom?] of people to the Indian Army.

Etymology of Shekhawati

Shekhawati was first mentioned in the book Bankidas ki Khyat.[3] Contemporary of Bankidas was Colonel W.S.Gardener, who used the word Shekhawati in the year 1803. Later Colonel James Tod wrote the first history of Shekhawati. The term Shekhawati was used frequently in Vamsh Bhaskar. This suggests that the term Shekhawati came in use about two and half centuries ago.[4] Shekhawati is named after Rao Shekha.


Shekhawati region of Rajasthan

Shekhawati is in a desert area of Rajasthan and has special importance in the history of India.

The natural climatic conditions in the region are very harsh and extreme. The temperature ranges from below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter to more than 50 °C (122 °F) in summer. The summer brings hot waves of air called loo. Annual rainfall is at around 450 to 600 mm. The groundwater is as deep as 200 feet (60 m), and in some places, the groundwater is hard and salty. The people in the region depend on rainwater harvesting. The harvested rainwater from the monsoon season (during July and August) is stored in pucca tanks and used throughout the year for drinking purposes.[5]

Shekhawati dialect

Shekhawati is a dialect of the Rajasthani language and is spoken by about three million speakers in the Churu, Jhunjhunu, and Sikar districts of Rajasthan. Even though it is a very important dialect from the grammatical and literary points of view, very little work is carried out on it. In 2001 a descriptive compendium of the grammar of Shekhawati was published.[6] Shekhawati, like the Bagri dialect of Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts, has a parallel lexicon which makes it very rich from the lexicographical point of view. Word order is typically SOV and there is an existence of implosives. The presence of high tone at suprasegmental level classifies it with other dialects of Rajasthani. It has contributed a lot to the development of Rajasthani language and linguistics.

Some samples in Shekhawati are:

  • Kai Hoyo? कै होयो? = What happened ?
  • The Kai kar rieya ho? थे कै कर रिया हो?= What are you doing ?
  • Ma Thane ghano samman desyu. मैं थाने घणो सम्मान देस्यु = I will give you great respect.
  • The sidh ja riya ho? थे सिद्ध जा रिया हो?= Where are you going?
  • The ke kha rahiya ho? थे के खा रहिया हो ? = What are you eating?


Ancient history

Many historians have considered this region included in the Matsya Kingdom. Rigveda also provides certain evidences in this matter.[7][8] Manusmriti has called this land as 'brahmrishi desha'.[9]

Shekhawati region was included in 'marukantar desha' up to Ramayana period. Out of 16 mahajanapadas prior to Buddha, only two janapadas, namely Avanti and the Kingdom of Virata were counted in Rajasthan area. This region was also influenced by Avanti but later on Nandas of Magadha defeated Avanti. Historians believe that Mauryas obtained the Rajasthan from Nandas.[10]

In ancient times Shekhawati was not limited to the present two districts. During the Mahabharata period it was known as Matsya Kingdom and extended to the Sarasvati River. This was because the first clan ruling this region, in the Mahabharata period, were descendants of fishermen. So the Vedas were supposed to be written and compiled on this very land.[11][12] During ancient times this region was divided into several janapadas. Every janapada was a free republic state. The development of janapadas in Rajasthan started with habitation of Aryan.[13] The northern part of Rajasthan was known as Jangladesh (Bikaner and Nagaur) during Mahabharata period.[14] and eastern part Jaipur-Alwar were called the Matsya Kingdom. Pandavas had spent one year of their vanishment in this Kingdom of Virata as their abode, to live in anonymity, after the expiry of their twelve-year-long forest life.[7] Dhosi Hill, the revered Hill, bordering Haryana, famous for Chyavana Rishi's Ashram, and place where Chyawanprash was formulated for the first time has extensive mentions in the epic Mahabharat in Vanparv. According to Vimal Charanlal, this Kingdom of Virata extended from Jhunjhunu to Kotkasim 109 km in the north, Jhunjhunu to Ajmer 184 km in the west, Ajmer to Banas and up to confluence of Chambal River 229 km in the south. The capital of this Kingdom of Virata was Bairat.[11][15]

After the collapse of Gupta dynasty, Shekhawati's some parts like Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Narhar were controlled by the Kaimkhanis, until they were defeated by Shekhawat Rajputs.[citation needed]

Kaimkhani is a branch emerged from Chauhans. The first progenitor of Kaimkhanis was Karamchand, born in the family of Moterao of Chauhan clan, the ruler of Dadrewa. Firuz Shah Tughluq converted him to Islam and named him Kaimkhan. Thus his descendants were called Kaimkhani.[citation needed]

Shekhawat Rule

Bawdi in Fatehpur

Shekhawati was established by Shekhawat Rajputs and it was ruled by them until India's independence.

Rao Shekha Ji from Dhundhar established his own independent kingdom with the capital at Amarsar. He was the first independent ruler. After him, Rao Raimal, Rao Suja and Rao Lunkaran become the rulers of Amarsar. Rao Manohar succeeded his father Rao Lunkaran and founded Manoharpur later renamed Shahpura (The present ruler of Shahpura is the Tikai of Shekhawat subclan). Shekhawats conquered the Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Narhar of Kaimkhanis and established their rule on them.

Shekhawati was the largest Nizamat in the state of Jaipur, which is almost entirely occupied by Shekhawats. The Shekhawat chieftains of the region retained a nominal loyalty to the Kachwaha Rajput's capital state of Jaipur(Amer), who in turn honoured them with the hereditary title of Tazimi Sirdars. The rulers of the Shekhawati's Thikanas were the Shekhawat sub clan of the Kachwaha Dynasty of the Jaipur Princely State. Shekhawats was the most prominent among all the Kachawas of Jaipur.[citation needed] Colonel J.C. Brooke, in his book Political History of India, wrote that for the recruitment of cavalry, there is no region in India at par with Shekhawati.

Thikanas of Shekhawati

[citation needed]

  • Rao Suja's younger son Rajah Raisal conquered Khandela from Nirbans and succeeded as the Raja Sahib of Khandela. He had 12 sons, five of which died in battle. His seventh son Raja Girdhar succeeded as the Rajah of Khandela and his descendants are known as Girdhar Ji Ka Shekhawats.
  • Raja Raisal's eldest son, Thakur Lal Singh, was granted Khachariawas Thikana and his son Kesari Singh founded Khatu. As Akbar called Lal Singh Lad Khan, this name became famous, and his descendants are known as Ladkhani.
  • Raja Raisal's third son Rao Tirmal was the ancestor of the Rao Ji Ka sect of Shekhawats. He was granted the parganas of Nagore and Kasli (with 84 villages). Rao Daulat Singh son of Rao Jaswant Singh of Kasli, founded Sikar in 1687.
  • Raja Raisal's fifth son Rao Bhojraj received the Udaipurwati as his Jagir by his father. He was the ruler of Udaipurwati (The group of 45 villages of Udaipurwati was known as Pentalisa) and he was ancestor of the Bhojraj Ji Ka sept of Shekhawats. Descendants of Rao Bhojraj founded many Thikanas and ruled over them. Pentalisa was composed of Jhajhar, Gudha, Khirod, etc.
  • Thakur Shardul Singh, a descendant of Rao Bhojraj Ji, conquered the Jhunjhunu in 1730 from the Kayamkhani Nawabs.
  • Many Thikanas had their own flags and emblems. Shekhawats ruled over the largest number of Thikanas in Jaipur Rajwara.[16]
  • In the 19th century Sikar was the largest and wealthiest Thikana and the Khetri was the second wealthiest Thikana of Jaipur State. Bissau and Surajgarh merged to form Bissau as the third wealthiest Thikana of Jaipur State.[citation needed]

Culture, heritage and tourism


The Shekhawats built forts in their thikanas. At every thikana in Shekhawati, there was a fort. More than 50 forts and palaces were built by Shekhawat Rajas. Today, many of them are hotels.

  • Mandawa Fort was built by Thakur Nawal Singh Bahadur in 1755. In the zenana (women's quarters), various rooms offer different themes. One room has antique murals, another has a marble fountain, while the turret room has walls that are 7 feet (2.1 m) thick. Diwankhana, the formal drawing room, is decorated with family portraits and an array of antique armour.
  • Vivaana Culture Hotel is a meticulously restored 19th century Shekhawati Haveli, featuring luxuriously decorated rooms and suites. Handmade oversized beds, goose down pillows and intricate detailing make the property one of the most elegant and comfortable culture hotels in Rajasthan.
  • Dundlod Fort dates back to 1750 AD. Steps lead up to the Diwan Khana, which is furnished with portraits, hangings, and period furniture. It also houses a library and portraits done in the European style.
  • The Roop Niwas Kothi Palace was established as a large country house by Rawal Madan Singh, former ruler of Nawalgarh. It is popularly known as Rawal Sab Ki Kothi in Nawalgarh. It sits on over 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land. The facade is painted in ochre that lends it dignity. The hotel organises horse safaris and has stables at the back side.
  • Mukundgarh Fort was built by Thakur Mukund Singh Ji. He established Mukundgarh in 1859 and the fort was built in a traditional style and spreads over 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land. It has several courtyards, overhanging balconies, arched windows and corridors.
  • Narain Niwas Castle, or Mahansar Fort, was built in 1768 by Thakur Nahar Singh. It has an imposing entrance reached by flight of stairs. It also has many wall paintings.
  • Alsisar Mahal (Alsisar Fort), a battle-hardened fort, was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar.
  • Dera Danta Kila (Danta Fort), two fortresses straddle the hills, their foundations laid in 1702 to house the army, the stables, and the royal residence of Thakur Amar Singh
  • Castle Pachar
  • Arooka Castle
  • Surajgarh Fort built by Surajmal Singh of Bissau in 1778.
  • Bissau Fort built in 1746 by Kesri Singh of Bissau.The best and strongest war fort in shekhawati with 7 burj's and double courtyard.The walls were never breached.
  • Tamkor Fort(Bishangarh)built in 1767 by Kesri Singh of Bissau.
  • Nua Fort built by Kesri Singh of Bissau in 1755.
  • Shyamgarh(jhunjhunu) built by Shyam Singh of Bissau in 1805.

Havelis, temples and frescos

This temple built by Shekhawat ruler of Nawalgarh
Shekhawati painted houses.

In Shekhawati, frescoes were initially introduced by Shekhawat Rajputs in their forts and palaces. The towns in Shekhawati are known for their painted havelis. This region has been recognised as the "open art gallery of Rajasthan" having the largest concentration of frescos in the world.

The Marwaris from Marwar was an influential business community in Shekhawati, and they prospered until the beginning of the 19th century, due to the caravan routes that crossed the area to reach the ports of Gujarat. However, from 1820 onwards, many left their families behind and migrated to Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, which were gaining importance as main trade centers where they had great financial success. The descendants of these rich merchants have permanently settled down in the towns their ancestors migrated to. The Shekhawati region has produced large number of Marwaris who are dominant factor in the economy of India. About 80 percent of big industrial houses are managed by Marwaris. India's richest industrialists of the century, such as the Birlas and Dalmia, are Marwaris. Today, the main trading and industrial houses of India have their roots in Shekhawati.

Between 1830 and 1930, they erected buildings in Shekhawati, their homeland, as evidence of their success. As the ultimate symbol of their opulence, the Marwaris commissioned artists to paint those buildings.

Most of the buildings of the Shekhawati region were constructed in between the 18th century and the early 20th century. During the British occupation, traders adapted this style for their buildings.[17] The havelis are noted for their frescos depicting theological and historical themes. The frescos include images of gods, goddesses, animals, and the life of the lords Rama and Krishna, profusely painted on the havelis in this region.

Marwaris have played an important role in the development of Shekhawati. Their major contribution to the Shekhawati region is in the field of education. Marwaris have also played a leading role in the Indian independence movement.[citation needed]

Tourist attractions

  • Forts & Castles
  • Horse Safaris
  • The Heritage on Wheels, a luxury tourist train on meter gauge, takes you to the lesser known and colourful area of Shekhawati Region. Heritage on Wheels is a luxury train in Rajasthan by RTDC and Indian Railways.
  • Havelis
  • Fairs and Festivals

Feudalism in Shekhawati

Feudalism functioned as an over-riding politico-administrative, social and economic formation undermining even the institution of caste. The feudal mode of social relations as a dominant force guided everyday life of the people of Shekhawati region in Rajasthan. One could trace some continuity of the past social formation in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal in the form of "semi-feudalism"as characterised by some scholars, but such a situation is not evident in present day Rajasthan, which was a prominent stronghold of feudalism prior to independence.[18]

Today a remarkable discontinuity in distributive processes and social relations, simultaneous occurrence of the processes of upward and downward social mobility and a self-perpetuating process of social transformation could be witnessed in Shekhawati.[18]

Farmers of Shekhawati

The Marwaris dominate the cities and towns of Shekhawati region. The rural areas of the Shekhawati region are dominated by farming communities. The farmers of the Shekhawati region are considered to be the most advanced in the state of Rajasthan, second only to farmers from Shri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts.[citation needed] The Shekhawati region has the highest literacy in the state.[19]

The predominant farmer communities in the rural areas of Shekhawati are the Jats: they comprise the largest single caste in the state (9 per cent), and were, in the 1930s and even earlier, the most self-conscious and prosperous among the peasant castes. They have also been the largest source of income for the region and its rulers. In 1935 their claims to certain privileges led to a series of clashes between them and the Rajputs, who resisted their attempts to revise accepted signs of status.[20] The Rajput community who were the jagirdars before independence still play very important role in society. The Brahmans and Dalits also play an important role in the area. The farmers of the region have done great struggle to come to the present status.

Before independence, the farmers of the Shekhawati region were exploited and oppressed by the Jagirdars during British Raj. During that time, Jagirdars would burden farmers, known as Kisans, with various taxes, a large part of which was to be paid to the British government.[21]

See also


  1. Aditya Mukherjee, "Art through the lens: Havelis of Shekhawati", The Times of India (Nov 12, 2013)
  2. Taknet, D.K, Marwari Samaj Aur Brijmohan Birla, Indian Institute of Marwari Entrepreneurship, Jaipur, 1993 p 78 ISBN 81-85878-00-5
  3. Mukutji: Jaipur rajya ka bhugol, page 46-47
  4. Sahiram: Ek adhūrī krānti, Shekhawati kā kisān āndolan (1922-1952), page-1
  5. Busquet, Carisse and Gerard Impressions of Rajasthan 2003, Editions Flammarion, ISBN 2-08-011171-X
  6. Lakhan Gusain. Shekhawati. Munich: Lincom Europa (2001) (LW/M 385)
  7. 7.0 7.1 G H Ojha: Rajputane ka Itihasa (Part I), page 83
  8. Sukh Sampati Raj Bhandari: Bharat ke deshi rajya, Jaypur rajya ka Itihas, page 3
  9. Sahiram: Ek adhūrī krānti, Shekhawati kā kisān āndolan (1922-1952), page-3
  10. Prithvi Singh Mehta: Hamara Rajasthan (1950), pages 30-31
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sahiram: Ek adhūrī krānti, Shekhawati kā kisān āndolan (1922-1952), page-2
  12. Satapatha Brahman 13/5/9
  13. Prithvi Singh Mehta: Hamara Rajasthan (1950), page 27
  14. Prithvi Singh Mehta: Hamara Rajasthan (1950), page 28
  15. G H Ojha: Rajputane ka Itihasa (Part I), page 86
  16. Shekhawat
  17. Henderson, Carol D, Cultures and Customs of India; Greenwood Press 1992, ISBN 0-313-30513-7, pg. 92
  18. 18.0 18.1 K.L. Sharma: Caste, Feudalism and Peasantry: The Social Formation of Shekhawati, Vedams eBooks (P) Ltd. New Delhi, 1998
  19. Dr RP Arya, Jitendra Arya, Dr Gayatri Arya, Anshuman Arya, Rajasthan Road Atlas, Indian Map Service, Jodhpur 2005
  20. Princely States Report
  21. Dr Natthan Singh, Jat-Itihas, (Jat History), Jat Samaj Kalyan Parishad, F-13, Dr Rajendra Prasad Colony, Tansen marg, Gwalior, M.P, India 474 002 2004

Further reading

  • Rao Shekha
  • Shekhawati Prakash
  • Jhunjhunu Mandal Ka Itihas
  • Sikar Ka Itihas
  • Ranbir singh Shekhawat(DUNDLOD) History of Shekhawats,Jaipur,2001 ISBN 81-86782-74-5
  • Ghansyamdas Birla: Bikhare Vicharon ki Bharonti, New Delhi, 1978
  • Rajasthan: the painted walls of Shekhavati, by Aman Nath and Francis Wacziarg. Vikas Publications, 1982. ISBN 0-7069-2087-2.

External links