In Ahmedabad and Patan, I’d visited step-wells in Ahmedabad, Adalaj and Patan. Known locally as ‘vav’s, there were architectural wonders, with beautiful and intricate carvings very much like what we see in old temples.
Quite by chance, I discovered that there are about a dozen step-wells in Delhi, and I was quite surprised that none of my friends in Delhi knew anything about them, and had never visited them. So here was a project.
Known as ‘baoli’s, many of them were built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of them are in great shape, although quite a few require attention and funds for refurbishing.
I had just enough time to visit two sites – Agrasen ki Baoli, near Connaught Place (see here) and Rajon ki Baoli at Mehrauli Archaeological Park (see here and here). The other baolis will have to wait till winter when I plan to visit Delhi one more time.
Wikipedia says “Although there are no known historical records to prove who built Agrasen ki Baoli, it is believed that it was originally built by the legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharat epic era, and rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal community which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen.”
Just about a five minute walk from Tolstoy Marg, lurking behind some dhobi lines, the baoli comes as a bit of a surprise – here’s this ancient structure right behind one of the busiest roads in Delhi. Indeed, the tall buildings around this area form an interesting contrast to the old baoli.
Unlike the vavs I’d visited in Gujarat, there are no carvings in the walls of this baoli. It gave the impression of being purely functional, with little decorative intent beyond the obviously impressive structure. Going by the number of young people taking photographs and sketching the baoli, it’s a popular place for students of art, architecture and design.
Rajon ki Baoli at Mehrauli was another beautiful and impressive structure, similar to Agrasen ki Baoli. Plain, simple, sturdy, unadorned by carvings and sculpture, it looked really pretty in the warm late afternoon sun.
One could imagine the local women coming to collect water and gossiping and haggling with churiwallas who must have set up shop in around the baoli in its heydays.
The Mehrauli Park has one other baoli which I wanted to visit – Gandhak ki Baoli. Unfortunately, it’s right in the middle of a village just outside the confines of the Park, and all entrances were locked.
So that will have to wait for my next trip to Delhi – maybe this winter.