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Tourism Promotion in Shekhawati
Tourism promotion in Shekhawati began with the organizing of first Shekhawati Festival, way back in 1995.

Shekhawati region in Rajasthan was given partial treatment by Mother Nature which is reflected in its semi-arid conditions. The Shekhawati culture responded to this challenge and compensated very beautifully in its rich tradition of folk arts, handicrafts and life styles. The cultural values also inculcated a deep sense of resilience and entrepreneurship in the sons of the soil reflected in top successful business houses of India originating from Shekhawati. This is evident in creation of magnificent havelis, philanthropic institutions and running of various altruistic activities by the segment of population for more than one century. It led to a rich heritage worth interest for serious tourism by outsiders.

Shekhawati is a region comprising of three districts in Rajasthan namely Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Churu. Situated North-West of Jaipur at a distance of 132 kms and South-West of Delhi at about 190 kms, it is now known as one of the largest OPEN AIR ART GALLERY in the world. Frescoes on every wall of over 5,000 havelis, also offers a unique essence of the countryside, its people, food, dance, music and livelihood activities in Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cottage Industries.

The Morarka Foundation, in its efforts to introduce new economic opportunities, identified tourism promotion. Starting from a humble 50 hotel rooms, today capacity has expanded to about 250 rooms.

A small beginning was made, by organizing first Shekhawati Festival in 1996. The 11th Shekhawati Festival was organized recently with great emphasis on farm and eco-tourism. The local traditional games such as Satolia, Rounder Balla, Hardara and Lunkyar continued to generate huge participation from rural youths. The folk art forms such as Mehandi, Mandana and Bandhej added colours to the festival.
Folk Art Forms:
Women in villages have always been the repository of art forms in rural India, Shekhawati is no exception. MEHANDI, MANDANA and BANDHEJ competitions have been included in the list of events organized every year during this festival. On one hand, these competitions have added colour to the festival, while many prize winners have found new and better income generating opportunities.

This year an unique event "Organic Food Bazar" was also organized. About 40 farm families practicing organic farming were invited to cook and serve their traditional food to the visiting tourists. This event attracted large number of local residents as well.
Morarka Haveli Museum
The initiatives to document the cultural heritage of Shekhawati has been taken one step further. A major restoration and conservation effort is under progress at Morarka Haveli Museum. An institute has also been created at Morarka Haveli Museum to train young unemployed youths.

In addition, a Guest Room along with toilet and all other necessary furniture and fixtures have also been developed. This Guest Room is now available to the visiting tourists for overnight stay.

The flow of tourists to the Haveli Museum has also increased significantly. The new Heritage Train on Meter Gauge has also included Morarka Haveli Museum in their itinerary.

Farm Tourism
Efforts made to develop Farm Tourism have also started picking up. With Gangabari being first organized tourist destination, today there are at least 10 more destinations on offer to the tourists. Here, the tourists are encouraged to understand and learn about organic farming in Shekhawati.
This led to a new concept, in which visit to villages are being organized giving tourists a real flavour and a closer look of country life. Subsequently, some overnight stays at farms both in tented accommodations as well as in traditional mud houses have also been added.

A beginning has been made but it would be quite long for farmers to become professional hosts, earning revenues.

Documentation, Preservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in Shekhawati
In collaboration with KALAKRITI (Architectural Firm) and AYAM (Ethnic Art Promotion Group) from the year 1997 to 2000 i.e. for three consecutive years, Haveli Competitions have been held to promote awareness about this heritage.
Also the research work for documentation awarded by Ministry of Art & Culture, Government of India, to develop complete restoration and conservation package for Shekhawati Haveli's has been completed. The report was released during Shekhawati Festival 2000 by Dr. Chandra Bhan, Honourable Minister for Energy, Government of Rajasthan.

This enabled many Haveli owners to plan for the restoration and conservation of their Haveli's in Shekhawati.

A leading restoration and conservation expert, Dr. Hot Chand, who has been involved in reviving traditional techniques, has come forward to set up an institute to train young unemployed youths.

This has helped to overcome the problems of non-availability of trained manpower in this area.
Website: http://www.shekhawatifestival.com
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