Culture and Heritage

Cultural Background
The functional unity and composite cultural traditions of Shekhawati find adequate reflection in the fairs and festivals on the one hand and religious icons and heroes and saints on the other. Apart from the legendary folk heroes like Ramdeoji (who has a temple dedicated to him in Nawalgarh) Tejaji, Shyamji of Khatu, places like Dargah built by Pathans at Narhad near Chirawa (also a Jain religious place) and Goga Medi in nearby Bhadra dedicated to Gogaji the folk hero (Tehsil of district Hanumangarh) are revered and these places considered sanctified equally by both Hindus and Muslims. Besides, a place called Kabir Tila near Chirawa was frequented by the followers of Kabir a Muslim craftsman turned saint. Hence the fairs held at these and other places in Jhunjhunu, Sikar districts and at Parbatsar (Nagaur) Ramdeora (Jaisalmer) are thronged and well attended by Muslim and Hindus. These fairs served as the meeting place for trade and exchange of goods and varied social interaction and sports (e.g. Ramdeo fair, Nawalgarh) for all communities and castes.

Among the popular Hindu sects having influence in Shekhawati are the followers of Dadu in Fatehpur, Ramgarh, Sikar Jhunjhunu, Alakhia Sadhu in Mandawa of Dashnami sect in Nuan where Rao Raja, Laxmansingh had built and dedicated a temple to Budhgiri, who is alleged to have died in a live ‘Samadi’. Finally a mention may be made of ‘Nath’ sect who had a great influence in the region by its teachings related to devotion as opposed to external & rituals of other sects.

Temple of Rani Sati at Jhunjhunu occupies a unique place in the folklore and legends of the region and it is believed that the annual fair held at this huge temple has a hoary history of 700 years of unbroken faith and following especially among Hindu business community of all sub castes.

In Nawalgarh fair dedicated to Ramdeoji, the folk-hero turned saint. Bhopi – Bhopa couple recites sonorous songs in the light of dimly-lit lamp or lantern relating the story of Ramdeoji, saviour equally of men, women and cattle, especially the sacred cows. This fair in size and sanctity is probably second only to fair held at Ramdeora in Pokaran Tehsil of Jaisalmer. A camel fair attended by folks from all over Shekhawati is also held in Nawalgarh.

Folk tales of Shekhawati unveil the heroic deeds of Prithvi Raj, Suraj, Pabuji, Ramdeoji, Tejaji, and Gogaji. At the same time these tales also reveal the romance and ethical values, humour and ways of salvation. Bhopa couples do sing and chant the poems in the honour of various heroes including Pabuji, Ramdeoji and Gogaji. Gogaji is considered the god of snakes and snake charmers.

Folk dances too have influenced the development of paintings in Havelis ‘Chang’ dance – a unique mass dance of the region is performed before and on the occasion of Holi, the festival of colours and gaiety. Chang group or (Tolies of 10-12 performers) as they are called have an institutionalized set up all most in all major villages and townships of Shekhawati. Dance is performed with the beats and rhythms of small and drums and flutes which players alternate with the steps of dance ending with ‘Dhammal’ (noisome high pitched ending) signifying the end of one round.

Ghoomar performed by women in various parts of Rajasthan is equally popular in Shekhawati. Geendad, another, important dance form of the region is performed by striking the rod-ends with the partners in a circle at night starting nearly a month before Holi festival and ending two days before the Holi (Sanctions five).

Amongst the most widely celebrated festivals in Shekhawati are Holi, Dusshera, Diwali, Teej and Gangaur. Gangaur is a widely celebrated festival all over Rajasthan. A procession was taken out during the Gangaur festival which comprised of soldiers mounted on horses, royal insignia, musical instruments known as nagaras followed by the Thakur seated on the royal elephant with a band of his security guard on horses. The procession usually started from the fort and concluded at the Gangaur kuan, a well designated as such in almost all towns of Shekhawati. The scene of one such glittering procession has been painted with gold inside the burji in the Balaqila or Baragarh in Nawalgarh.

Shekhawati has a rich tradition of fairs and festivals that form the fulcrum of the cultural life of the people. The visual and performing arts like music, dance and drama thrived through the fairs and festivals promoted by the rich and the nobility. The region also has exquisite local cuisine. All these together constitute the intangible heritage of the region.