Podar Haveli Museum – The prized Shekhawati haveli in Nawalgarh

Captivating frescoes covered every inch of those walls
And where there were none, there were those ornate arched doors.
If you are looking to explore Shekhawati
Your first stop should be this Nawalgarh Podar Haveli.

Explore the magnificent Dr. Ramnath A. Podar Haveli Museum in Nawalgarh in this post. Discover the best things to see here and get information on how to visit it, the timings and entrance fees. 

If you are looking to visit Shekhawati’s painted towns in Rajasthan, I highly recommend you start with Nawalgarh – specifically the Podar Haveli museum. This place is a perfect prelude to your tour of this region. For one, Podar ki haveli is one of the best-maintained mansions in this region. Now a museum of Rajasthani culture, it is the place that will introduce you to the typical layout of a Marwari haveli. Equipped with that kind of knowledge, you will appreciate the other Shekhawati Havelis better.

Podar Haveli museum in Nawalgarh - the best start to your tour of Shekhawati
Podar Haveli museum in Nawalgarh – the best start to your tour of Shekhawati

To be honest, Podar haveli museum Nawalgarh was almost toward the end of my journey. A walk through this magnificent mansion was so insightful that I really wish someone had told me to begin from here. Ah well, I guess, it is better than not having seen it ever.To be honest, Podar haveli museum Nawalgarh was almost toward the end of my journey. A walk through this magnificent mansion was so insightful that I really wish someone had told me to begin from here. Ah well, I guess, it is better than not having seen it ever.

In this post, I will take you on an entire tour of Podar museum Nawalgarh. This includes its history and the key attractions of Podar haveli – from its architecture to its exhibits. The post also includes useful information like how to get to Nawalgarh Podar haveli museum, its timings, entrance fees etc.

The history of Poddar haveli in Nawalgarh

Located in the Jhunjhunu district, Nawalgarh is one of the key towns of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. It used to be a small village by the name of Rohili that was given to Thakur Nawal Singh Ji Bahadur as a jagir (land grant). In 1737 CE, he developed it as one of the key centers of trade on the flourishing silk route that passed through Shekhawati. The place came to be known as Nawalgarh and became more popular as several esteemed business families made it their home. The Poddar family was one of those illustrious families who settled here.

A picture of Anandilal Podar and his wife as kept in the Podar Museum Nawalgarh
A picture of Anandilal Podar and his wife as kept in the Podar Museum Nawalgarh

In 1902, Sheth Anandilal Podar built the current Nawalgarh haveli and moved in with his family. A successful businessman in Mumbai, in 1921 he donated a princely sum of INR 2,01,000 as the Tilak Swaraj fund to Mahatma Gandhiji. His only condition for this donation was that the money was to be used for the education of society. With this, the Anandilal Podar Trust was set up with Mahatma Gandhiji, Jamnalal Bajaj and Madan Mohan Malviya as the founding trustees along with Seth Anandilal Podar.

A picture of Dr. Ramnath A Podar in the Nawalgarh haveli museum
A picture of Dr. Ramnath A Podar in the Nawalgarh haveli museum

With the freedom movement in India becoming stronger, Mahatma Gandhiji and Jamnalal Bajaj stepped down. The trust continued its good work with Anandilal Podar and his son Dr. Ramnath A. Podar. In 1955, the entire Poddar family moved to Mumbai, leaving the Nawalgarh haveli vacant. Later in 1966, Dr. Ramnath Podar converted his ancestral Nawalgarh haveli into a high school – in line with the objectives of the Anandilal Podar trust.

Later in 1992, Dr. Ramnath Podar’s son – Kantikumar R. Podar realized the heritage value of his erstwhile ancestral home in Nawalgarh. He moved the functional high school to a new building behind the Nawalgarh haveli. He began a massive restoration of the frescoed mansion and finally in 1995, he opened it to the public as the Dr. Ramnath A. Podar haveli museum. The Nawalgarh Podar museum aims at preserving and showcasing the traditions and culture of Rajasthan. Today, it is one of the best places to visit in Nawalgarh.

The Nawalgarh Podar haveli architecture

The Podar haveli museum Nawalgarh
The Podar haveli museum Nawalgarh

Like most Rajasthani havelis, the Poddar haveli in Nawalgarh exudes palatial charm. The difference lies in what contributes to this majestic aura. Popular havelis like the Patwon ki haveli in Jaisalmer or the Rampuria havelis in Bikaner owe their elegance to their intricately carved facades. The Shekhawati havelis like the Poddar haveli Nawalgarh get their captivating aura from the vibrant frescoes that cover every inch of their walls. In fact, it is these frescoed mansions that give Shekhawati the reputation of being the land of painted havelis.

An amalgamation of Mughal, Rajputana and European architecture can be seen in Nawalgarh Podar haveli
An amalgamation of Mughal, Rajputana and European architecture can be seen in Nawalgarh Podar haveli

Podar ki haveli is a lovely amalgamation of Mughal and Rajputana architectures. The colossal arched gateways that are typical of the Mughal palaces are fitted with ornate doors that sport the classic Rajasthani toran. You will also see shades of European architecture in the columns of the corridors on the upper levels of Nawalgarh Podar haveli. These are even visible in the frescoes that are present throughout the mansion.

The colonial touch to Ramnath Podar haveli
The colonial touch to Ramnath Podar haveli

The architectural layout of the Podar haveli includes two large courtyards, with one floor each. There is a clear demarcation of the outer public courtyard for the guest from the inner private one for the family. Both courtyards are open to the sky and have rooms built along their periphery.

I wonder how it would have been to have studied when this Podar haveli was a school. Imagine getting punished outside your classroom! I know that I would not have minded it – especially since I had hundreds of stories staring back at me from those frescoed walls of the Poddar haveli.

Rampuria Havelis - the start of Merchant Trail of Bikaner

Quite different from the Shekhawati havelis, the merchant havelis of Bikaner owe their grandeur to their intricate carving. Discover these havelis through here

Inside Podar ki haveli

Plenty more than frescoes inside this Nawalgarh haveli museum
Plenty more than frescoes inside this Nawalgarh haveli museum

From the first sight of Dr. Ramnath A. Podar haveli museum, I found myself entranced by its myriad frescoes. Throughout my visit, this kaleidoscope of illustrations kept distracting me from the other interesting aspects of the place. Trust me, you will find yourself too, getting distracted as you walk inside Podar haveli. Given my experience, it is best that I first walk you through the other attractions of the Podar museum Nawalgarh before I go into raptures about the main feature here – the 750 frescoes.

So, let’s get on with the tour of the Nawalgarh Podar haveli museum.

The doors of Podar haveli museum

The Mukhya Dwar and the toran darwaza of the Ramnath Podar museum
The Mukhya Dwar and the toran darwaza of the Ramnath Podar museum

If it isn’t the frescoes, then it is the opulent gateways of the Ramnath Podar haveli that will bewitch you. As explained by our enthusiastic guide Sunilji, there are two entrance doors. The Mukhya Dwar or the main doorway is the mammoth door that you will encounter at the arched entrance of this haveli. These were rarely opened. Visitors usually used the smaller door within this door to step into the main public courtyard.

Called the Toran Darwaza, this smaller door added a little security to the haveli. The visitors not only had to climb over the gate but had to also, bend their bodies to do so. This helped slow down any possible intrusion or attacks. The entry through this door also, symbolized respect for the hosts as one had to bow to enter the place. On either side of the doors, don’t miss the guard corner called the gokha.

The Gokha near the Haveli doors
The Gokha near the Haveli doors
The gorgeous door of Podar ki haveli Nawalgarh
The gorgeous door of Podar ki haveli Nawalgarh

Inside Podar haveli, you will find that all the rooms are equipped with contrasting double-door systems. However, the one that is the most conspicuous and my favorite is the door that separates the inner private courtyard from the outer public one. Made with an alloy of copper and silver, these large gilded doors have hardly lost their lustre over the years. The golden doors contrast beautifully with the carved brown Burma teakwood frame – at the head of which you will see the colorful toran design along with an engraved image of the Lord of Good Beginnings (Lord Ganesha).

My favorite door of the Podar haveli that separates the private and public courtyards
My favorite door of the Podar haveli that separates the private and public courtyards

The door is set in a frescoed alcove that further enhances its elegance. You will be able to see a painting of the Marwari businessman conducting trade overseas. For now, check the picture and see if you can see the details of how this has been depicted. Else, you can just hop over to the Frescoes section of this Nawalgarh Poddar haveli post.

As informed by Sunilji, this particular door was used as an illustration for the logo of Indian airlines (the door in front of which the Maharaja stood).

The courtyards of Podar museum Nawalgarh

Outer courtyard with the entrance and door to the inner courtyard
Outer courtyard with the entrance and door to the inner courtyard

Based on the wealth and status of the family, the havelis usually had one or more courtyards. This Nawalgarh haveli museum had two living ones. The first courtyard that is connected to the Mukhya Darwaza (main entrance) is akin to the Diwan-e-aam section of Mughal courts like Agra Fort. It is accessible by all visitors and is considered a common area of the haveli.

The inner courtyard of Ramnath Podar musem
The inner courtyard of Ramnath Podar musem

The 2nd courtyard or the family area can only be entered through my favorite door. This was largely used by the women of the house. The privacy shielded them from the unwanted attention of visitors and strangers. Besides being used for private functions and festivals, this space was also, used for activities like drying of spices or winnowing.

The Baithak & Diwan Khana of Poddar haveli museum

Quite like the Chettinad mansions of South India, the Shekhawati havelis doubled up as an office for the owners. The Chettinad mansions had an open verandah called thinnai with a desk for the accountant. Compared to that, the Podar haveli in Nawalgarh had a room called Baithak.

The Podar haveli baithak
The Podar haveli baithak

Resplendent in red, the baithak emanates a regal ambiance. In your mind’s eye, it is easy to picture Sheth seated in the center gadda (mattress), resting against the red pillows and smoking a hukka while listening to his visitors next to him. Soft wind from the manual fan would have rustled a few papers and kept the atmosphere in the room cool. Interestingly, the fan used to be operated by a servant who was usually deaf and dumb – just so that the secrets discussed in the room were not revealed outside.

Within the baithak, is a small room called the Diwan Khana. This is where the accountant sat. It is also, where the treasure vault was kept.

The upper level of the Baithak area of the Nawalgarh Poddar haveli
The upper level of the Baithak area of the Nawalgarh Poddar haveli

The baithak also, doubled up as a reception room for non-business visitors. If you notice, it has an upper level built within the room. This was usually covered with curtains so that the women of the house observe the proceedings in the baithak without being seen. They would often help serve refreshments through servants from this area.

The Thinnai with its pillars and sweeping roof (Mugappu)

South India had its own form of mansions that like the Shekhawati mansions have been abandoned. Equally grand, take a tour of what these Chettinad mansions have to offer

The galleries of Dr. Ramnath A. Podar haveli museum

The other rooms of the Ramnath Podar haveli museum have been converted into galleries. These showcase the living culture and heritage of Rajasthan. There are around 10 galleries that you can visit.

Bridal costumes

Gallery of Bridal costumes
Gallery of Bridal costumes

Even within Rajasthan, every community has a distinct wedding outfit. This section of the gallery brings forth these colorful differences. Some interesting things that I noted are how the grooms of Rajput clans carried a sword called Kilangli. The Chejara clan brides were dressed in silver jewelry against the traditional gold that is used across India.

Rajasthani miniature paintings

The gallery of Rajasthani miniature paintings
The gallery of Rajasthani miniature paintings

One of the things that Rajasthan is famous for is its miniature art. You would have seen it in various shops as well as popular palaces like the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur or the Amer fort in Jaipur. I knew that it had several schools like the Bikaner school of miniature art and each of these had a distinct difference. This gallery of the Poddar museum attempts to share these differences and celebrate this heritage art form.

Gems and Jewelry gallery of Poddar museum Nawalgarh

Even today, you will see a lot of locals wearing traditional jewelry pieces like Anvia (round solid anklets) and maang tikka (jewelry on the forehead). In fact, you will encounter a lot of them throughout Shekhawati itself. You can use this gallery to understand and identify these pieces the next time you see them.

The marble handicrafts section

The lady with a veil - all made in marble
The lady with a veil – all made in marble

Mark this section for a definite visit when at the Ramnath Podar museum in Nawalgarh. Specifically for this one piece that reminded me of the veiled Rebecca exhibit at the Salar Jung Museum of Hyderabad. The entire statue of the Rajasthani woman is made from marble, including her transparent veil.

This gallery is mainly to showcase the prowess of the Rajasthani craftsmen with marble. There are plenty of other exhibits but for me, this one took my breath away.

Turbans & Pags

The various turban styles of Rajasthan
The various turban styles of Rajasthan

I did know that there was a difference in the way a turban was tied in India but honestly, did not know about the other subtle cultural nuances to them. For one, turbans called pagadis were made of at least 7 m of cloth while pags were shorter and round. The Pags were also, called safaa. The way one wore was related to his ego and status. As Sunilji joked, in a marriage, as the groom’s father had a higher social standing , he would wear a pagadi while the girl’s dad would sport a Pag 🙂

Transportation Gallery

The miniature transport models kept in the transporation gallery of this Nawalgarh museum
The miniature transport models kept in the transporation gallery of this Nawalgarh museum

In one of the rooms, miniature models of the various modes of transport were used in the olden days. One might deem it as not so interesting but if you just notice a few details, you will realize that it is quite insightful. For instance, it is obvious that bullock carts were used in the fields but if one changed the kind of cart, then it could be used for family transport. Even the type of carriages varied with the occasion.

Fairs and Festivals Gallery

Kalbelia dance - a Rajasthani dance performed by a community who specialize in catching snakes
Kalbelia dance – a Rajasthani dance performed by a community who specialize in catching snakes

A gallery of pictures that showcase the Rajasthani fairs and festivals like the famous Pushkar fair and the Gangaur festival. You will also, get an introduction to unknown celebrations like the Kalbelia dance that is done by a community known to catch snakes and extract snake venom.

The Forts section

Model of the Bundi fort
Model of the Bundi fort

One room of the haveli showcases miniature models of the most popular forts in Rajasthan. It was fun trying to identify the ones that I had seen using the models. And of course, it did add a few to my must-visit list like the Bundi fort.

The traditional musical instruments section

Live music with rawanhatha at the Podar haveli museum
Live music with rawanhatha at the Podar haveli museum

The section on the ground floor showcases the local versions of the percussion and wind instruments used in Rajasthan. While I was familiar with the been and shehnai, I did not know of algoja. As for the rawanhatha, you can get a taste of the same with the local musician who I found at the entrance of Poddar haveli in Nawalgarh.

Photo gallery of the family & Poddar trust

Picture of the first parliament of India displayed in the Nawalgarh Poddar haveli
Picture of the first parliament of India displayed in the Nawalgarh Poddar haveli

This room is on the first floor and is also, referred to as the Gandhi gallery. You will see a lot of pictures of the Podar family – from the days of Sheth Anandilal Podar to the current generation of the Podars. Along with those, there are rare pictures from the era of freedom struggle and the first government of India. You will also, be able to see the clippings of old newspapers with significant news.

And that concludes the tour of the various galleries in the Poddar haveli museum of Nawalgarh. Now comes my favorite part of this place – the frescoes!

The frescoes of Podar haveli Nawalgarh

Frescoes on the outer facade of the Podar museum in Nawalgarh, Shekhawati
Frescoes on the outer facade of the Podar museum in Nawalgarh, Shekhawati

As I mentioned earlier, what makes Shekhawati havelis different from the other Rajasthani Havelis are the frescoes. These are paintings made on wet plaster using natural gemstones and vegetable colors. It is this application to wet plaster that makes it different from murals that are done on dry walls. The use of natural colors ensures the longevity of the frescoes. This is why even on the oldest mansions in Shekhawati, you will still be able to discern a fresco.

Frescoed corridors of Ramnath Podar museum
Frescoed corridors of Ramnath Podar museum

There are three types of frescoes that you can observe at the Podar museum Nawalgarh –

  • Descriptive frescoes – storytelling by way of paintings. These involved elaborate scenes from mythological stories, everyday life & even from the courts.
  • Portraits – Of known personalities or even Gods
  • Decorative frescoes – these were mostly fillers that were used to enhance the pillars and ceilings. In some places, you will find that the floral and geometric fillers were used to create frames between two major descriptive or portrait frescoes.

The Podar haveli museum in Nawalgarh has 750 frescoes. While it might not be possible to see all of these, here are the ones that must not be missed. Consider this as a photo essay section of this post (I just could not stop taking the pictures)

The train

The train fresco right above the entrance of the Podar museum Nawalgarh
The train fresco right above the entrance of the Podar museum Nawalgarh

The first train in India was between Bombay and Thane in 1853. When the Nawalgarh Poddar haveli was built, there were no trains in this region. The fresco of this train was a memoir of sorts of that journey. You will find this right above the main entrance of the haveli (in the courtyard).

Teej festival

A close up of the Teej festival fresco and the train fresco
A close up of the Teej festival fresco and the train fresco

Right above the train fresco is the depiction of the Teej festival. You will see a huge procession of men and women. Some of them are engaged in a dance while a few are carrying musical instruments. Note the stepwell and the swings in the frescoes.

Krishna Leela – the predominant theme in Podar haveli Nawalgarh

The giant fresco of Krishna playing flute in the outer courtyard
The giant fresco of Krishna playing flute in the outer courtyard

Be it the outer facade of the haveli or inside, you will find various scenes from the life of Krishna. Right above the musical instruments gallery is a large fresco of Lord Krishna playing flute for his cows. In the same courtyard, you will also see scenes of Lord Krishna playing Holi as well as the Kite festival.

Frescoes on the ceiling
Frescoes on the ceiling
Krishna- Radha frescoes in the inner courtyard
Krishna- Radha frescoes in the inner courtyard

Most of the ceilings are decorated with the Krishna Leela dance. When you walk into the inner courtyard, you will see many portraits of Lord Krishna and Radha together. Inside the Baithak, you will find frescoes that depict the child Krishna. Scenes of him stealing butter and with his mother are a few that I recall.

Chausar of Mahabharat

A scene from Mahabharat on the left and Krishna celebrating the Kite festival on the left
A scene from Mahabharat on the left and Krishna celebrating the Kite festival on the left

You might be familiar with the famous gambling scene or playing chausar in Mahabharat where Kauravas steal the properties of Pandavas. If not, you will find an elaborate fresco of it in the public courtyard.

Frescoes of Shiva Parvati

Ardhnarishwari fresco in the inner courtyard of the Podar mansion in Nawalgarh
Ardhnarishwari fresco in the inner courtyard of the Podar mansion in Nawalgarh

Again, there are many of them throughout the haveli. However, look out for the half-male and half-female. You will find this Ardhnarishwari fresco in the inner courtyard.

The European portraits

A British couple painted on the walls of Podar Nawalgarh haveli
A British couple painted on the walls of Podar Nawalgarh haveli

Scattered amid the various Indian and royal faces, you will see a few European portraits. You will even find them in the train frescoes.

The door fresco – Lord Ganesha and the trader

Close-up of the Frescoes above the courtyard door of Nawalgarh Podar ki haveli
Close-up of the Frescoes above the courtyard door of Nawalgarh Podar ki haveli

I hope you have been able to spot this earlier when I described my favorite door. Above the Ganesha carving is a fresco of a trader conducting business. You can see a ship anchored next to him depicting overseas business. Right above this scene, you will spot several small portraits of Lord Ganesha. There are tiny scenes from various mythological stories of Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu & Lord Ganesha. Also, don’t miss the swayamvar of Sita.

There are many many many more detailed frescoes – I mean 750 of them. So you can imagine how long it would take to detail them out. For now, I will leave you with this list. And as a bonus, add one more. Check out the frescoes of people peeping out of windows. I found those highly creative.

The mysterious faces in the painted windows
The mysterious faces in the painted windows

Now, don’t you think you must begin your tour of Shekhawati with this Podar haveli museum in Nawalgarh? Just to make it easier to get you there, here are the FAQs and important information about the Dr. Ramnath A. Podar haveli museum.

FAQs about the Nawalgarh Podar haveli museum

What is the best way to reach the Podar museum in Nawalgarh?

Nawalgarh is just 140 km from Jaipur – which is the closest airport to this town. From Jaipur, you can use any one of the following means to get to Nawalgarh.

By Road
A road trip from Jaipur to Nawalgarh will take you just 2.5 hours. You can either hire one of the self-drive vehicles or a cab from Jaipur. There are a lot of tourist buses and public buses throughout the day.

By Rail
Nawalgarh has its own railway station and there are quite a few trains from Jaipur that get you there.

Once in Nawalgarh, hire one of the local autos to get to Podar haveli. Avoid using big cars as there is not much of parking space around the haveli. Also, the roads are very narrow.

What are the Ramnath Podar haveli museum timings?

Ramnath Podar haveli museum is open from 8 am to 8 pm every day.

What is the best time to visit the Podar museum Nawalgarh?

In terms of the climate, it is best to visit Nawalgarh in winter when the weather is pleasant. Summers can be really harsh with temperatures soaring over 40 degrees.

Nawalgarh haveli is not usually very crowded. Hence, any time of the day would work. You could start your day with this haveli and then go to the other Nawalgarh mansions next to it.

How much are the entrance fees for the Nawalgarh Podar museum?

The Podar museum entrance tickets cost INR 80 per person. Cameras are charged extra at INR 30.

Where can you stay in Nawalgarh?

Nawalgarh does not have a lot of hotels. There are a few havelis like the Roop Niwas Kothi and Roop Niwas Palace that have now been converted to hotels. These have a limited number of rooms, so make sure you book early. There are few homestays that are available of which I highly recommend Rajesh Jangid Tourist Pension. Not only is it budget friendly but the host is extremely warm and helpful. You can head to the booking section to book these hotels for your Nawalgarh stay.

How long does it take to see Nawalgarh Podar ki haveli?

Keep aside at least 1 to 1.5 hours to see the haveli.

How many frescoes are there in the Podar haveli of Nawalgarh?

There are at least 750 frescoes that cover the walls and ceilings of Podar haveli in Nawalgarh

Travel & Photography tips

  • Look out for Sunilji at the Nawalgarh Podar museum. He is your perfect guide to the place. Not only will he explain the haveli but also, shares a lot of cultural nuances.
  • For your camera, carry a wide lens as well as your regular prime lens.

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That concludes my mega guide and tour of the Podar haveli in Nawalgarh. Do bookmark this and share it around.

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