Bikaner Heritage in Ruins

The term ‘Haveli’ is used for a private mansion. It is derived from Persian meaning "an enclosed place". The term was first applied by the Vaishnava sect to refer to their temples in Gujarat. In the northern part of India havelis for Lord Krishna are prevalent with huge mansion like constructions. The havelis are noted for their frescoes depicting images of gods, goddesses, animals, scenes from the British colonization, and the life stories of Lords Rama and Krishna. Later on these temple architectures and frescoes were imitated while building huge individual mansions and now the word is popularly recognized with the mansions themselves. Between 1830 and 1930, Marwaris erected buildings in their homeland, Shekhawati and Marwar which became status symbols for them. Closed from all sides with one large main gate, the havelis provided secluded privacy to the those living inside. According to a study commissioned by Rajasthan government, the total number of tourists in Bikaner will become 301925 by 2011. In the next 1 decade, the number is expected to reach 357034. Increased traffic flow means increased revenues for the state. Since for most tourists the main attractions in the state are its rich history and cultural heritage, including the ancient forts, magnificent palaces and havelis, it makes sense to invest in preserving the remaining of heritage buildings in the district, specially the beautiful havelis. Lalit Joshi, our correspondent grew up in Bikaner and has a strong love for the art and cultural heritage of this desert state. Lalit is saddened by the fact that most of the money spent on tourism promotion is concentrated in Jaipur or Udaipur. Lalit feels, the intricate designs and big size of the havelis make it difficult for individual families to maintain and that’s why the city administration needs to step into preserving the havelis.

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