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Melbournian falls in love with abandoned Ballrooms and Mansions of India…

A rare and evocative narration on abandonment!

India’s Shekhawati area of Rajasthan today hosts abandoned mansions and desert towns; whilst descendants have been drawn to urban and economic centres.

Melbourne’s architectural photographer Kip Scott visited Rajasthan, India in 2015 and fell in love with this Shekhawati region.

His recently published book, Abandoned India: The Mansions of Shekhawati includes portraits of the region’s residents, but in particular highlights the abandoned havelis and colourful frescoes for which the area is known. 1

Originally a homeland to the Mawari community of Indian traders and merchants, the Shekhawati area flourished in the early 1900s leading to the construction of many mansions as well as public buildings adorned with frescoes.

The area became known as the open-air art gallery of the world.

However, soon after Indian independence, and the land reforms that followed, the area lost much of its economic importance.

Within a few years, majority of wealthy merchants had abandoned their homes and moved to Kolkata and other cities. Their large opulent havelis lay in disuse, and many to this day are empty or only inhabited by a caretaker.

Kip Scott’s evocative images include abandoned buildings and interiors such as the magnificient but decaying ballroom in the small village of Mahansar.

New uses for such buildings can sometimes be found (Guest houses, Bollywood movie sets and fashion shoots for example), but with less certainty in a region that is semi-arid.

Lal Singh Shekhawat, historian, talking of Kip Scott’s work said, “The treasures of my own town of Mahansar are glimpsed in the images of the Poddar Golden Haveli, which has the finest murals of Shekhawati in gold leaf and glittering Belgian mirror work, and the crystal chandeliers and huge Murano and Belgian cut glasses of the Tolaram Ka Kamra”.

Lal Singh Shekhawat belongs to Castle-family of Thikana (barony) Mahansar and descendants of royal family of Thakur Nawal Singh ji Bahadur of Nawalgarh of Shekhawat clan.

“Scott’s book arrives at a an opportune moment when so many of Shekhawati’s glorious but often abandoned mansions face the danger of decay or the possibility of preservation and the connection of the past to the future”, Shekhawat said.

Kip Scott is an award-winning architectural photographer, known for his recurring theme of abandonment – whether it is the disused factories of the West or the redundant institutions of Europe.2

This time around, Yarravilleian Kip Scott, captures the complex nature of change in India and its sublime beauty in the decay.

A large scale exhibition of these photos and more; will also be held at forty five downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne from Tuesday 10 May to Saturday 21 May.

The book Abandoned India: The Mansions of Shekhawati is available from www.transitlounge.com.au or bookshops throughout Australia.

Abandoned India: The Mansions of Shekhawati Photographs by Kip Scott Foreword by Lal Singh Shekhawat

ISBN: 978-0-9943958-6-3 Hardback 144pp RRP: $59.99 Published: 1 March 2016 Rights held: World

Kip Scott photo: courtesy transitlounge

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