Churu is a small town in Rajasthan close to its borders with Haryana. It is kind of an oasis in the Thar desert, not too far from the city of Bikaner. It is named after its founder Churaman and dates back to the 12th CE at least. Other accounts say that it is named after a chief Churru and dates to 17th CE. I visited the heritage town as part of my Shekhawati trail and spent a day there.
Churu was the last Shekhawati town I visited in the region. So, by this time I was well aware of the colorful Havelis and the structure of a Shekhawati Haveli. I knew how the Havelis would be huddled together in a part of a town that would have once belonged to the wealthy merchants. Here too, I found it exactly the same way. I did find some great paintings, lovely streets with paintings all around.
Places to See in Churu
What stands out of this heritage town in my memory is the artisans I met there and the water heritage of Rajasthan that I saw there. So come with me for a quick tour of Churu and Mahansar.
Sethani Ka Johara
Johara is a type of water body. This was built in the mid-20th CE by the wife of Seth Bhagwan Das Bagla, hence called Sethani ka Johara. Located on Ratangarh Road, It is one of the rare perennial sources of water here. When I visited it in September, the water shimmers with white walls all around it. The best part was that it was clean and well maintained. The face is even painted with birds which makes it even more inviting.
There are pavilions to sit close to water. My guide told me that there are people who can sense the underground water and they choose the location to build such ponds. They also know it from the color of the soil in a region. It is an inherent knowledge that we seem to have lost.
In winters it attracts a lot of migratory birds, for they need water as much as we do. This is my biggest recommendation to visit when you are in this heritage town.
Digambar Jain Temple at Churu
The Jain temple dedicated to Shantinath Bhagwan is my next recommendation. From the outside, it looks like a plain white building, but once you take a flight of stairs and enter the temple, you are in for a surprise. The interiors of this temple can give tough competition to the most opulent palaces.
The walls are full of colorful murals. Glass in different colors reflects them and multiplies the opulence. I also saw a version of Snakes and Ladders on a wall. In the middle of this riot of colors stands the most peaceful Murti of Jain Tirthankar.
Nath Ji ki Chhatri
Chhatris as we know are the cenotaphs usually of the royal families of the region. There are chhatris in Orchha or Bada Bagh in Jaisalmer. This one has a Shivalinga installed and regular worship is done. It was closed when I visited.
However, I saw a unique system of water management in its compound. There is a covered well with a small square opening on top that is linked to water channels that can clean water. Incredible. Do not miss this when you visit.
Walk in the markets of the town and you will find yourself surrounded by colorful Havelis. They not just have paintings all over but also make ample use of colorful Belgian glass. One can only imagine how they would have been people wearing colorful garments around.
Surana Haveli – popularly known as Hawa Mahal of Churu since it has 1000+ doors and windows on its walls. You can see it from outside only. One wonders at the builder’s vision when one looks at the architecture that not just blends with its surroundings but also is creative enough to be unique. Surana Haveli is grand by any standards.
Bagla Haveli – where you see a large mural depicting the legend of Dhola Maru
Most of the Havelis are lying in disuse here. Some of them are working as godowns now.
Murals that you should look out for are Dhola Maru and Jesus smoking Cigar both of which can be seen right from the road.
In one of the open Havelis, I could see the Takth laid out in the pillared corridor with paintings hanging on the plain walls. This gave me a glimpse of the life of Shekhawati Havelis.
Some of the doors look beautiful even when they seem to be locked for years now.
I missed visiting this medieval fort. It is best known for using silver bullets in 1857 against the British. It is said that the forces that exhausted all the iron shells were fired. This is when the ironsmiths and silversmiths came together to make shells of silver. Something that was bound to go down in silver words in history.
There is an old Ram Mandir in pink in the town, with Ram Ram written on its walls.
Miniature wood carving
I met Sh Pawan Jangid in the town, who is a renowned wood carving artist. He is known for his miniature artworks. I not just met him and saw his collection and awards but also shot this video of his father carving the wood. Watch it.
Lac bangles of Rajasthan are popular in fairs and festivals across India. It is fun to see the making of it. It makes you realize how much effort goes into making one bangle. Watch it here:
Places to Visit near Churu
Tal Chappar Wildlife Sanctuary
I could not visit this sanctuary, but then I heard my friend Arun Bhat talk about this place. He mentions how photography has changed the face of this sanctuary and made it a tourist hot spot. Hear him speak:
Golden Haveli at Mahansar
Mahansar is another village located close by. You can see many big and small things here, but what you should not miss is the golden room here. It is done primarily in red and golden colors. The ceilings have the whole of Ramayana painted on them along with other stories from Indian scriptures.
Close to it is another high ceiling room that is done in a typical colonial style. I was told that this room was built to entertain the European guests. They were not allowed entry into the private homes but this acted like a guest house where they could stay and entertain during their visits to the town.
Mahansar Fort is now a heritage hotel where you can stay and enjoy the typical small town of Rajasthan. It was under renovation when I visited, I assume it would be ready to host guests again.
- The best time to visit this place is in winter. It gets too hot in the summers.
- It is well connected by rail and road to both Delhi and Jaipur.
- You need about half a day to explore this heritage town.
There are options to stay in the town, but you can also stay in bigger places like Mandawa or Nawalgarh, or Jhunjhunu and take a day trip to the heritage town.