The Grand Rampuria Havelis of Bikaner!

This is from December 2016. After writing a series of posts about Bikaner- such as Karni Mata temple, Laxmi Nivas Palace, Made of Ghee Jain temple * Miniature artist Mahaveer Swami * Desert Sundowner , colourful corridors of Narendra Bhawan, and silent features of Narendra Bhawan I still had a few stories worth sharing yet to write.

One main experience was a walk through the majestic Rampuria havelis in Bikaner. We also had our lunch there. This post shares that part of the experience.

Havelis are several hundred years old structures, originally built as residence for traders who were invited by kings to do business in the kingdom. The grandeur of a haveli was directly proportionate to the wealth of the merchant who owned it. Here in Bikaner, the term Rampuria represents a richest and powerful trading community. When Maharaja Ganga Singh invited traders traveling across the silk route to keep their base in Bikaner, havelis were one of the biggest incentives. Sometime in 15th century they commissioned construction of these havelis. Build with red sandstones sourced from nearby villages, the buildings naturally look very colourful, without any need for additional paintings.


 Doors of havelis
  Sid listening carefully to the guide


 Below photo, Sid has clicked in much more exciting frame. Check his post here.

The havelis when constructed were meant for large joint families. Now the younger generation of the Rampuria community is largely settled abroad, with no particular interest in their ancient havelis. There're government regulations that prohibit demolition of these ancient structures, so they can only change hands. As a large joint family split into smaller nuclear families over generations, it has been very difficult to split a large haveli into smaller units and share it. There's no space to expand and Bikaner is no longer a trade hub/mega city (like Mumbai) so businessmen families have no motive to keep their base here. The havelis are maintained with hired staff with some minimum spending. Few havelis are rented or converted into hotels and few more are still used as residences but many are locked. Tourists can't go inside- need to be contempt in observing it from outside, which itself is a visual treat. Every pillar, every window has detailed carvings. Wood is used in large quantities. I am hoping it won't cause a fire risk. Lot of dust deposit on the walls shows the need for some maintenance of these havelis.

We stopped at a temple inside haveli area, which had very colourful interiors.

 

Lunch in one of the havelis
Our hosts, Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner had arranged lunch for us inside one of the havelis. Rajasthan style food was served in unique design thalis.





Below: Some photos of the havelis where we had lunch.




Above: Bloggers group pic on the terrace of the Haveli where we had lunch.

The Tonga Ride
While you can explore all havelis on foot, a more convenient way will be hiring the horse driven tongas. Saves some time and effort and the drivers know all spots of interest so you won't miss important things. The horses were healthy, well cared for and friendly.





Above: Me in some close conversation with the horse, clicked by Sankara C
Below: Colourful wheels of a tonga
The merchant who helped the king:
Of all the havelis, this particular one has an interesting story to tell: Dadda Haveli: There were times when the king would lose a battle and had to pay hefty fines/loyalties to the winning kingdom, in order to keep the throne. At such times, while many traders refused to help their king by sharing some of their wealth, traders of Dadda haveli have reportedly helped the royal family multiple times, without any expected returns. Because of this Dadda family is said to be very close to royal family and would get priority treatment in all festivals/events.
Overall our tour of havelis in Bikaner lasted close to half a day, lunch included. We were ably guided by Ram of Narendra Bhawan Bikaner.

Points to note:
  • Do carry all required essentials- water, hat/umbrella, power bank etc. Hardly any restaurants/shops around.
  • Best time is probably before 10 AM, as Bikaner is a hot state. Best to finish your tour before it gets too hot. Haveli area is not ticketed or access controlled, open all the time.
  • Avoid going in bigger vehicles as lanes are narrow.
If you're looking for a nice place to stay in Bikaner, check out Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner. Right now they are running a summer sale- for Rs 3000 per person per night, stay, breakfast, dinner, poolside sun-downer and all taxes are included. You can book using widget below.
Booking.com

20 comments:

  1. The natural rusty red color of the stone really gives the haveli that royal and strong look. The delicate details of carving and the intricate paintings both look to elegant and beautiful. The palace is really beautiful, loved all the pictures.

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  2. यह हवेली मैंने देखी है शायद,
    अपने फोटो देखता हूँ, तभी साफ हो पायेगा। यहाँ सब कुछ लाल लाल है तो याद रहना मुश्किल हो जाता है। सब एक जैसा लगता है।

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  3. great any suggestion for sight seeing in gandhinagar

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately no, haven't explored Gandhi Nagar

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  4. Looks beautiful. Such havelis are quite alluring.

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  5. That opulence and architecture deserves so much more than just the appreciation..love the contrasts in the first picture and some parts of this Haveli take me back to European architecture..Thanks for sharing this lovely post :)

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  6. Grand Havelis !! These are really looks very beautiful

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  7. One thing about the old city of Bikaner that struck me was how dirty and smelly the narrow bylanes were. Is it only me or is Bikaner among the dirtiest cities in Rajasthan. The haveli does look spectacular but as you mentioned, they are not well maintained. Enjoyed the pictures.

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    Replies
    1. I think they are doing some minimum care taking.

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  8. Beautiful captures. I went few years back, in those days these haveli's were not well maintained but now it's nice to see in good condition.

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  9. Beautiful images and you had truly expressed the Rampuria Haveli

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