History of Malji ka Kamra
Made as a guesthouse to Maharaja of Bikaner by Malji Kothari – one of the richest Seths of Churu – Malji Ka Kamra is over 100 years’ old. The place was used as an entertainment house for visiting dignitaries with artists being called upon from all corners of Bikaner riyasat. One of the rooms still carry original painting of Ganga Singh Ji – who used to stay in that particular room during his frequent visits to Churu.
This stone and lime edifice was built over 17 years which shows in the changing style of artwork imprinted on its walls. The present owners – Anand Balan and Ranjitmal Kothari – carried out the restoration of this heritage building taking care to retain the integrity of its original style after it had reached a state of partial collapse due to neglect in last few decades.
Situated in the heart of Churu – the least explored of three districts comprising Shekhawati – Malji ka Kamra showcases a unique combination of Italian style construction combined with ingenuity of local architects. The hugely impressive stucco work on the exteriors and Shekhawati style murals painted in the interiors are some of the finest examples of art prevalent in early 20th century.
History of Churu
The city of Churu was founded in 1620 by a Jat chieftain Churru. Churu was ruled by Thakur Maldeo, the grandson of Rao Kandhal and uncle of Rao Bika, the Rathore Rajputs of Bikaner.
In the 18th century Churu fell on the caravan route and the business was thriving. However, by end of 18th century, due to excessive taxes imposed by local Thakur, most of the important traders were compelled to move across the border in Sikar (which came under state of Amber i.e. Jaipur). The Rao of Sikar, Devi Singh, gladly welcomed them to a place 15km south of Churu where the Poddars established the town of Ramgarh. This town boasts of a very high number of havelis and is called as Ramgarh Sethan (literally the merchant town of Ramgarh).
Soon, Churu came under direct rule of state of Bikaner after its Thakur revolted against the Maharaja of Bikaner, Surat Singh, with disastrous results. He had to commit suicide and the Maharaja took over the town in 1818. During one of these battles between the forces of Churu and Bikaner when all the copper and brass had been exhausted, Churu Thakur asked his womenfolk to part off their silver ornaments and with this metal, shells for the cannons were made and used in the battle. After 1830’s, as the trade patterns changed and the merchant families started migrating to new business centers of British India, they created a lot of wealth and decided to spend most of it back home. Not only were palatial homes decorated with magnificent frescoes created, but also buildings with social purposes like wells, baoris, chhatris and dharamshalas were made aplenty.
Today, Churu retains much of its original charm and adds rustic, 16px town’s feel to it with its colorful bazaar and unhurried life. The town is literally a living mural that has expressed itself on the walls of the havelis that remains to be discovered by tourists.