Ugrasen ki Baoli

I have come to Delhi for attestation of some documents by Iraqi embassy. So, Jaya and Babai also accompanied me to Delhi from Ranchi. Babai came with me for getting the documents attested. Jaya was resting at the hotel. 20141009_120722

After depositing the document at Ministry of External Affairs for their attestation before it’s to be attested by the Iraqi embassy, Babai & I went for a walk from Patiala House towards Connaught Place. We were walking by Mandi House. Babai and I planned to have some coffee before we start our walk again. So, we walked into Costa at Bengali Market. It was quite a warm day, so we preferred to have cold coffee. While drinking cold coffee, I told Babai that there is a historical place nearby. Babai immediately asked me to take him there. After finishing our cold coffee, we started walking towards the historic Ugrasen ki Baoli.

Ancient Indians used to build water temples as well as earliest forms of stepwells and reservoirs. Stepwells are wells or ponds in which the water is reached by descending a set of steps. They are often multi storied in structure and are found in arid regions of South Asia.

Ugrasen ki Baoli (a.k.a. Agrasen ki Baoli) is one of such stepwells in Delhi. It is designated a protected monument by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). It’s a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide historical step well on Hailey Road near Connaught Place in New Delhi.

1836945_10205301221114467_4917121390830422354_oBaoli or baori is a Hindi word (from Sanskrit vapi, vapika). Water temples and temple step wells were built in ancient India and the earliest forms of stepwell and reservoir were also built in India in places like Dholavira as far back as the Indus Valley Civilisation. Thousands of stepwells were built in India starting around the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. where they first appeared as rudimentary trenches but slowly evolved into much more elaborate feats of engineering and art. By the 11th century some stepwells were commissioned by wealthy or powerful philanthropists as monumental tributes that would last for eternity.

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.

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Apart from providing water Stepwells also served as a place for social gatherings and religious ceremonies. Usually, women were more associated with these wells because they were the ones who collected the water. Also, it was they who prayed and offered gifts to the goddess of the well for her blessings. This led to the building of some significant ornamental and architectural features, often associated with dwellings and in urban areas. It also ensured their survival as monuments.

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The galleries and chambers surrounding these wells were often carved profusely with elaborate detail and became cool, quiet retreats during the hot summers.

10659010_10205301216754358_4383302039645167359_oUgrasen ki Baoli is a unique blend of architecture with an impressive design known to have existed centuries ago. The red stone walls of the Baoli, dressed with a series of arched structure are grim and desolate, but still beautiful. The Baoli is made up of a series of superimposed arches supported on piers or columns. It consists of 103 steps made of red stones. A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, is to make it easier for people to reach the ground water and to maintain and manage the well.

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Because of an increasing drop in local water table due to unregulated pumping, the stepwell has long since dried up and one can see the bed of the reservoir. It is a cool and silent place in the heart of the capital. The silence deepens as one moves to the bottom of the stairs, and the gradual increase in the gurgling sound of pigeons, and squeaky chatter of bats echoing off the stone walls makes this place creepy. The mystic architecture is definitely worth a visit.

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