Rampuria Haveli Tour Through Historic Center of Bikaner
A visit to Rampuriya Haveli and a cluster of other haveli in the historic centre of Bikaner city can leave you dazed! Who stayed in these Haveli (traditional mansions) of Bikaner? Where are they now? And most important why are they in such an abandoned neglected state? These are some of the questions that haunted my mind as I walked through the old streets of historic centre of Bikaner.
I toured the narrow lanes between the havelis of Bikaner early this year (January 2017) in a horse driven carriage. Seems like a long time but the memories refuse to fade away. A couple of hours’ tour through those lanes left me dazed. So much of grandeur and opulence in a state of neglect! I have here, in this blogpost, a tour of the streets on a horse driven carriage. This tour was a part of merchant trail organized by the good folks of Narendra Bhawan, a palace converted to hotel.
Architecture of Rampuria Haveli and other Mansions
Somebody with impeccable design sense has made these haveli for sure! Intricate details even though now coated with layers of dust due to years of neglect doesn’t fail to catch your admiration. They force you to stand and gaze.
First and foremost, the color of havelis is attractive red! It is not a coat of paint but red sandstone. It is said these stones have been sourced from Dulmera, a nearby village in Bikaner. Exquisite and fine delicate carving is possible on these kinds of stones. Themes are mostly flowers leaves and birds. One of the façade has sculpted images of British Monarchs looking down at ‘once his subjects’ walking down the streets of historic center of Bikaner.
The interiors are out of bounds for public, so all we could see were the majestic, grand facades during Rampuria Haveli Tour. As is typical of Rajasthani architecture, here too the facades consist of jharokah – windows of yester years made of arches and fine lattice work, doorways beautifully carved but now unfortunately closed to public and tourists. The beautiful hand crafted doors are shut with ugly locks. Some of the painted medallions that still exist are very impressive. Images seem to be copy of prints of 19th century art works. Contrasting them are the sculpted images of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi on door frames.
Who Built Rampuria Haveli
During 19th century the wealthy merchant family, Rampuria took the services of Balujee Chalva to construct royal and elegant mansions that befit their status in society. We were told by the guide that interiors of these haveli have lavish inner halls and rooms decorated and beautified with aesthetic objects. Today the mansions are being ripped of these heritage collectibles and sold in market. They seem to fetch more than the haveli itself.
Where are the owners of Rampuriya Havelis
Descendants of the original owners no longer live in these mansions. Those who have flourished in their business have settled abroad and left these mansions to care takers. Those who haven’t fared well still inhabit these mansions. The tragedy is the mansions have got divided by inheritance into several families, hence no longer huge mansions under the care of one owner but little houses with independent owners.
Why are the havelis in such an abandoned neglected state
Interesting to note that the owners abroad keep changing the caretakers every one or two years; lest the caretakers establish their ownership on them! Caretakers too therefore have least interest in the good maintenance of the mansions. They know they are responsible for just 1 or 2 years. The ornamental facades of the haveli have withstood the torture of time, so it seems. But further neglect can cause a loss to the heritage of this historical city of Bikaner.
Location of Rampuria Haveli
Rampuria Haveli is very well connected by roads of Bikaner. One can avail taxis and buses for reaching this destination. Nearest airport is Jodhpur International Airport – distance – 251 km.
Travel and Tour Tips for Rampuria Haveli Tour
- Charge your camera batteries and have spare chips too. Chances are that you will run out of memory space or power during Rampuria Haveli Tour, may be both because there is plenty to shoot and capture.
- Summers can be unbearably hot. August to March is best time. I toured in January. Winters here are any day better.
- Interact with locals, may be you will stumble on some old story of the place.
- Take water with you. If you fall in love with the facades there the walk can be long.
- No tickets are required to tour the streets. The sights are free.
- There is no open and close timings. The sights are open throughout the year.