Haveli: Wind or Air Houses


Interior ladies’ courtyard of haveli:  Gennana

From Neemrana, where we spent only one night, we headed a bit farther west to Churi Agitgarh in the Schekhawati region, to our hotel in a converted haveli.  Gorgeous paintings on many of the surfaces, which are referred to as frescoes even though they are painted on dry plaster rather than wet.  Perhaps they should be called seccoes.

Our drive too much longer than the miles would suggest owing to the rather primitive state of some of the roads.  We sat over the rear wheels and it was like being on a carnival not-so-fun ride.  Oh, well, today we will move forward.

We made one stop en route to visit a settee martyr temple.  Even though settee was outlawed by the British in the mid-19th century, there are many temples dedicated to these martyrs (when a women immolated herself on her husbands’ funeral pyre, she became an instant deity).

We arrived in time for the “last viewing” ceremony.  Great clanging and banging of bells and drums, waving of implements, blessing of food stuffs, sprinkling of holy water.  It was as fascinating as it was deafening.

Quick check in and lunch at Vivaana, our hotel and then off to the nearby village of Dundlod to visit a particularly nice haveli, wander around the village, and visit a well (not a stepped well).

Haveli are houses that were built during the 19th century by members of the trader castes.  They are large and built around a couple of courtyards.  The first courtyard one enters is the men’s/public courtyard; the second is for the women and family members.  The houses are built with many openings to capture the breezes for cooling.

These mansions also acted a bit like trading posts along the trade routes and offered hospitality to those who plied the trade routes.  Now, most of these places are still owned by the original families but the ownership has become so divided and the owners so dispersed,* that many of these places are falling into disrepair.

*The families became so wealthy, they chose not to stay in their ancestral villages and have moved into the major commercial cities.

Hashmat had arranged for us to be entertained by local dancers before dinner last night.  It was enchanting.  We sat out on the lawns in a courtyard under a dark, starry sky and watched the dancers, dressed in brightly colored outfits, whirl and twirl to the sounds of drums and other instruments.  Several of the dances involved dancing while balancing various objects on their heads:  Five pottery pots in one instance; a wine bottle with a large pot balanced on the pointy end in another.  Kind of incredible.

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