THIS REGION, named after its 15th-century ruler Rao Shekha, has a number of fascinating small towns with well-preserved painted havelis, forts and temples. Among the most interesting are Lachhmangarh and Fatehpur with their grand havens, and Dundlod, with its well-restored fort. Especially worth visiting is Ramgarh, 20 km (12 miles) north of Fatehpur. Famous for its Shani Temple which has an ornate interior of mirrorwork and gilt, the town also has the Ram Gopal Poddar Chhatri, covered with more than 400 paintings. The main bazaar is crowded with “antique” dealers, who sell carved doors and windows from derelict bavelis. Many of these are extremely skilful new copies of the originals.
Mahansar, 15 km (9 miles) northeast of Ramgarh, has the splendid Sone ki Dukan Haveli, abundantly worked in gold leaf. The paintings on its vaulted ceiling, depicting the incarnations of Vishnu, are perhaps the finest in the area.to the north and west. It also has ten richly painted haveli. During Dussehra, Rainlila performances take place every evening, with the actors wearing masks and costumes made by local sadhvis (female ascetics) who started this tradition in the 19th century. Churu, 12 km (8 miles) northwest of Bissau, is in the desert. Though not actually part of the Shekhawati region, it is included in the painted havelis circuit, as many merchants had homes here too. The Surana Double Haveli, with its imposing proportions and 1,111 windows, is the main attraction. The Banthia Haveli, east of the vegetable market, has interesting if bizarre frescoes, including one of Jesus smoking a cigar,