Construction of the Patwon Ki Haveli (on the right) began around 1805 by a merchant and his five sons and took about 50 years to complete.
The street is so narrow here that it normally would have been impossible to get a good shot of the haveli from across the street.
But the Indian government, recognizing Patwon Ki as an important tourist attraction, bought the house across the street.
They relocated the family then tore down the building, creating a place for tourists to rest and view the haveli.
The Patwon Ki is actually a cluster of five havelis.
Although it may look like it was made of wood, all construction is of carved sandstone. This is a desert area, and there are no forests within thousands of miles. But sandstone deposits and quarries are plentiful here.
Workers were paid based upon the amount of rubble created by the piece they were working on. If the slightest mistake was made, the piece was rejected, and they were paid nothing.
At one haveli, for a small fee the owners allowed visitors into a particularly well preserved interior room.
It’s difficult to imagine being wealthy enough to afford to have the interior of your house hand painted like this.
Real gold leaf was used in much of the detail of these frescoes.
Some of the details in the room were reminiscent more of a church than a room in a private home.
I recognized several Hindu gods and goddesses in the frescoes. This is Krishna, always shown as blue, and Radha.
Hanuman, the monkey god.
Shankar Singh, my Mandawa guide, began to point out the frescoed havelis that were on the main street.
Some were in good condition or had been restored.
Shankar explained that some owners had abandoned their havelis, and certain of them had thus fallen into decay. Others were still being lived in by the owners. We then stepped into the yard of a haveli where the occupants were still living there.
These permitted peeks at the private homes made the already inexpensive fee of the local tour guide into an incredible bargain.
Shankar was excellent at pointing out particularly well preserved frescoes in unusual locations that I might have missed.
There were so many of them in one small town of around 20,000 that it was astonishing.
Mandawa in its heyday must have been magnificent.
Even with many of the havelis falling into disrepair, it was incredibly beautiful.
The next morning this was the view from my room into the courtyard, which was open to the sky.
The hotel was so magnificent that I had to explore it in depth. This was the magical India that I hoped to discover on this trip, and I was savoring every detail.
The more I explored, the more stunned into stupidity my brain became. All I could say to myself as I discovered ever more beautiful frescoes in every corner was, “Oh, my GOD! Are you KIDDING me??! Oh, my GOD!”