Beyond the forts and palaces, innumerable havelis weave the urban fabric of the medieval towns
in Rajasthan. These havelis of the nobles and courtiers are unparalleled in architectural
beauty and provide in interesting insight into the domestic architecture of Rajasthan.
The book is the first comprehensive, regional work on these mansions of the courtiers spread
in the historic towns of Rajasthan. It traces the evolution and transformation of the havelis
in the alternating context of unified Rajasthan and its sub regional diversities. The
documentation of several havelis in different regions of Rajasthan in different regions of
Rajasthan is further supported by an examination of the haveli form to show how the regional
variations arise from social, political and geographical factors such as occupation, caste,
topography, and available material.
The book draws on information collected from regional texts, fictions and folklore depicting
social life, extensive fieldwork including of a survey of more than 150 havelis in different
towns of Rajasthan and interviews with several haveli residents. It covers major cities of
Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur as well as a number of smaller towns
and thikanas of earlier times.
This book presents a first hand, detailed and documented version of the traditional ‘Haveli
form’ of Rajasthan for the exploring tourist who wants to look beyond the obvious destinations
and for the architects, art historians and conservationists looking at vernacular architecture
in search for regional roots.
Shikha Jain studied architecture from School of planning and architecture, New Delhi and later
finished Masters in Architecture from Kansas State University, USA. Her doctoral work on the
traditional havelis of Rajasthan from Prasada, De Montfort University, UK has been awarded the
IIA Research Award 2003 by the Indian Institute of Architects.
She is involved in architectural research and teaching. A number of her articles on heritage
and conservation have been published in architecture journals. She is also editor or Context:
Built, Living and Natural, a biannual refereed journal on built heritage and environment and
consultant to INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Gurgaon Chapter.
Among the traditional house forms of South Asia, the north Indian haveli is undoubtedly the
most widely known, because of its strongly characteristic form, the fascinating social
patterns that it embodies, and the sheer beauty of its manifestations. A number of detailed
studies of the form have appeared in recent years; yet until now, there has been no serious
overview of the subject. It is in the present-day state of Rajasthan that the surviving
heritage is most magnificent, but no previous attempt has been made to build up an overall
picture for the whole of the state.
The architectural diversity among the different regions of Rajasthan is evident even to
tourists, but nobody until now has systematically analysed a representative range of havelis
from each region, or characterized the differences in planning, structure, materials and
architectural language. The challenge of such a broad study is to make sense of bewildering
variety not only geographically, across space, but simultaneously to understand the changes
that have happened historically, though time.
Shikha Jain has undertaken this task, and the material presented in her book represents a
phenomenal amount of fieldwork and painstaking analysis. Simply to have given us a coherent
picture of what is there- While explaining the urban context; use of materials, constructional
techniques- is a great achievement. Not content with this alone, or to consider architectural
comprehensiveness a sufficient degree of wholeness, Dr. Jain has also wrestled with the
relationship between built form and cultural, social and political forces. Her work sets an
example for comparable overviews covering other parts of India.
Needless to say, this study appears at a time when much of the architectural heritage that it
presents is disappearing, and it is to be hoped that this book will contribute to a greater
realization of the value of these environments, and to the cherishing of what remains. These
buildings are irreplaceable. At the same time, traditional domestic buildings such as the
havelis have much to teach architects and planners of today, and if more than superficial
lessons are to be drawn, then serious studies as the present one are sorely needed.
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