In Kolkata, we don’t have ‘baolis’ but ‘bawali’ which loosely means unnecessary and unwanted chaos.
The first place that D was kind enough to take me around after the great lunch at Town Hall Khan market was Agrasen ki Baoli. An early morning flight and then a grand lunch can only make your eyelids heavy and the hotel bed can call you but this was little different. I had an enthusisatic company who was more eager than me to take me around. The heat outside was killing but the enthusiasm overruled it.
Without much knowledge about the locality, I was told that this place was near Connaught Place and a sudden left turn to a bylane (almost hidden) passing through some of the stylish graffitis on the walls leading to the Baoli.
Baoli or the step wells used to be the main source of water in the past. These were built with the purpose of conserving water for times of no rainfall. When not filled up to the brim, one had to climb down the stairs to fetch water. These were marvels of the past and provided support to civilization. One of the most important aspect of these Baolis are the historical significance attached with them. It is said that Delhi used to have some 100 baolis at one point of time but now there are only15 Baolis in Delhi and some of the well known are Rajon ki Baoli near Mehrauli, Red Fort Baoli (which is even older than Red Fort), Baoli of Nizamuddin or Gandhak ki baoli and many more like these.
At the entrance, there is a stone laid on the right hand side which depicts the significance of the place and a small entrance leads you to the baoli. Almost 100 steps deep (I did not count the steps) leading to the source of water, U shaped structure comes across a surprise for any traveller. More as a surprise as the sky scrappers of CP peeps from behind. It is believed that this was built by Emperor Agrasen, however the architectural style pegs it to Tughlaq or Lodhi era. Made of uneven stone, there are 4 levels with arched hollow structures which has become now a favourite place for the pigeons to rest. There are no carvings on the wall like other historic structures which will depict the then contemporary society or mythology.
Agrasen Ki baoli has become famous off late. Especially since the time PK movie was shot there and Aamir Khan as PK had taken shelter on the stairwell. So the best activity that can be carried out here is sit down for a while, enjoy the grandeur of the place and then move on. There are bats (numerous) I am being told and smells of bat poop all around. The symmetrical structure of different layers make it a place of interest for any heritage or archaeology photographer. There is a mosque too at the back which is in a tattered condition and definitely needs some attention. Erstwhile, the blackwaters used to lure people to commit suicide and several cases of suicides are reported. It is also said that at night, there are strange sounds which come out from this place. But then, a place like this with so much of history and a tinge of mystery will definitely have some rumours around it.
Agrasen ki Baoli closes by 5 PM. So photography needs to be done before that. There is no entry fee. We were tired and as we planned to step out, the wall graffiti outside caught my attention. The entire stretch of the by lane gets stunningly impressive with the wall graffitis done by Harsh Raman, who incidentally has done graffiti for lots of other places in Delhi too. These places will never lose their sheen as the utility, relevance and magnitude of these works along with the presence amidst the concrete jungle of tall buildings will always have visitors appreciating them. Preserving these monuments, planning guided heritage tour, upkeep, maintenance and making them attractive to tourists will be the concerned Government official’s responsibility and to some extent, the citizens’ responsibility too. Remember its been said that Agrasen Ki Baoli is one of the most haunted spots of Delhi too. I may try a late night venture next time.
While writing for this blogpost, I came across this article which sadly says that Rajon Ki Baoli has become a hub for smoking hasish, hookah and breaking beer bottles. The monument is of national importance under the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1951 and something like this is purely unacceptable. Why don’t we do something about this? You can get a link for the article here.