The Shekhawati region to the northwest of Jaipur is renowned for its ornately painted havelis (walled town houses) – vestiges of a more prosperous era, when it lay on a vital trans-Thar trade route.

A perfect pied-à-terre from which to explore local heritage treasures is the old castle towering above the market town of Mandawa. Turreted bastions and palanquin-roofed balconies overlook the inner courtyard of this formidable fortress-palace, seat of Thakur Nawal Singh. It was built at the height of Shekhawati’s glory in 1755, just before the region’s fortunes began to wane.

Many of the images adorning the havelis the castle overshadows reflect of changes of succeeding decades, when boom slowly turned to bust: East India troops marching into battle, the Wright Brothers flight, India’s first telephones and scenes from the Independence struggle – as well as many exquisite mythological and religious tableaux. After touring the dusty streets, guests can relax in sunken marble baths tubs or swim in the hotel’s fabulous outdoor pool, fronted by a triple-storeyed domed pavilion.

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