Shekhawati is an arid region which is famous for its havelis and mahals, it was ruled by many kings and Thakurs who lorded over fiefdoms known as Thikanas. The most prominent among these was the Khetri which was ruled by the Shekhwat clan.
Khetri Nagar is a town in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan in India. It is part of the Shekhawati region. Khetri is actually two towns, “Khetri Town” founded by Raja Khet Singhji Nirwan and “Khetri Nagar” which is about 10 km away from Khetri. Khetri is known for its fort.
The Khetri fort was built by Raja Bhopal Singh in 1754 A D and he named It as ‘Bhopalgarh’, after him. Khetri fort is perched on top of a hill. The Fort is protected by a Hercules rampart all around, the Maharaja and Maharani Fort are situated at 2 different corners of the hill, in between are ruins and abandoned houses. These houses belonged to the villagers below and during war times they shifted inside the fortified fort after abandoning the farming below.
Khetri Mahal is a small palace dating from around 1770 and once one of Shekhawati’s most sophisticated and beautiful buildings. The unique structure of the fort is so intimidating that it inspired Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh of Jaipur to build the grand and historical Hawa Mahal in 1799. Khetri in itself was considered to be the second wealthiest ‘Thikana’ under Jaipur.
A series of small laneways at the western end of Nehru Bazaar leads to the imposing Khetri Mahal, one of the perfect examples of Shekhawati art and architecture. The uniqueness lies in the continuous flow of wind which invariably makes this structure stand apart from many other such buildings as it is devoid of any doors or windows.
Pillars have replaced the giant wall structures where ever possible in order to maintain the steady flow of gusting wind in the palace. There is an elongated access ramp leading to the cosmic patio of the Mahal from the foremost entrance hall. This was designed to provide ease to Rajputs in riding their horses. In fact, the different levels of the fortress are united with patio or terrace all the way through a string of similar access ramps.
Another objective of these ramps was to provide high enough platform for ‘Thakurs’ to gaze down at their subjects without much effort. The sight from the roof top is really impressive. One can also spot 2 tiny recesses with parts of paintings that belong to the long-gone era in the private meeting rooms of Thakurs. Most of these paintings were created with natural earth pigments. Inside of Khetri Mahal, there are huge graceful halls with intricately designed arches and pillars. The major aspect that makes Khetri Mahal into a unique palace is it has no doors or windows unlike other Mahals or Palaces.
It remains to be one of the rare and unique structures in the history of Rajasthan. But now, hundreds of properties belonging to the Khetri dynasty has either been encroached upon or in government custody. Khetri House, for instance,has been sold and resold through forged deeds-once even through a public advertisement by a Maharastra-based businessman and politician who claimed to deal in disputed properties. The irony being, the property is officially in government custody. Khetri, which had lost 2,000 of its 14,000 soldiers who went to fight in World War I, is now battling to save a crumbling royal heritage.