Ramgarh and the Golden Room at Mahansar

The Thakur had arranged for his nephew to guide us around some havelis in the neighbouring town of Ramgarh. We had arrived at Mahansar via Ramgarh so it didn’t take long to find the rough 6km road back there.

The first place we visited was one of Ramgarh’s 50 or so centotaph sites. This was similar to the one we had visited at Gaitor near Jaipur, though not as grand as the structures only held the cremated remains of wealthy merchants and their families rather than Maharajas. Each was painted with pictures from local life or Hindu texts.

Next on the tour was a temple to the goddess Kali. The day we visited was particularly auspicious as it was a day on which Kali is worshipped. We were welcomed by the priest and shown around the temple. There is only one temple to Kali in Ramgarh, a town of approximately 35,000 people. The temple’s idol of Kali depicted the goddess as a black-faced woman with a necklace of severed heads.

Following that we moved on to a temple to the Lord Sun, who is the god of Saturday. The temple is covered in many mirrors, and lit only by oil lamp which creates an amazing flickering effect.

Havelis were next on the tour, and we spent some time wandering around the haveli section of Ramgarh. There around 400 havelis int the town, though around 95% are no longer occupied. Many are simply locked up and left to decay, while others have caretakers who will let visitors in for a look around. A few are occupied and are still used to house the descendents of the original owners. In the majority of cases the original owners moved away to the large cities, some even living away when the havelis were originally built, using them as status symbols to show their old home town how well they were doing.

Sadly, now many of the havelis have started to crumble, the paint is wearing off the outsides and no one seems to care for them. We did see one which had had some recent restoration work carried out on it by the current owner but this was definitely the exception rather than the rule.

We were shown around the inside of one haveli which is still occupied, and went up onto its roof terrace to look over Ramgarh. A large part of the town must be made up of the now disused havelis, along with the similarly crumbling cenotaph sites.

Jumping back in the car we headed back to Mahansar to visit another closed haveli, just by the entrance to the castle. The entry hall to this building was fantastically decorated; divided into three sections, one each for Rama, Krishna and Vishnu. Each ceiling panel told a story from the god’s life and was beautifully painted in rich colours and real gold. Some of the local people had scratched off some of the gold, possibly to try to sell but the vast majority of it is still intact.

Back to the castle for lunch and an afternoon taking photos of the room and the view from the roof, before a candle-lit dinner on the terrace outside our room and then to bed.

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