Agrasen ki Baoli : A Historic Monument in Delhi’s Heart
A historic monument located on Hailey Road in the heart of Delhi i.e. Connaught is one of the best monuments to visit when in Delhi. Be it a short trip or an extended vacation, you can always take some time out to visit this monument designated as a protected monument by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958.
The monument is a step well which measures 60 meter long and 15 meter wide. A short walk from the famous tourist site ‘Jantar Mantar’ would lead you to this picturesque place. Any of the local transport can take to this place. You can also board Metro rail to reach Connaught Place and then can either walk down or take a cycle rickshaw to rich Agrasen ki Baoli.
The word baoli or baori or bauri or bawdi is a Hindi word derived from a Sanskrit word Wapi, Vapika or vapi which means a step well. Step wells were very popular in Gujarat and Rajasthan. These step wells were constructed to overcome the scarcity of water. These wells were also used as storage apace too. Some of these wells remained simple in design, with a single flight of steps leading to the exposed water tank, many were developed with spaces used for as temples or for daily living.
As, the concept of pipes and taps was introduced under the colonial water management plans, unfortunately, majority of these step wells were filled up in nineteenth and twentieth century. The few that are left are mostly in the arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, a few fine examples of single-flight step-wells like Agrasen ki Baoli still remain in Delhi.
The construction of Agrasen ki Baoli is commonly attributed to the pre-Lodhi Raja Agrasen, ruler of the Agrawal community in 14th century. It is a relatively simple structure, consisting of single flight of 103 steps that culminate in a now dry water tank. The stone walls of the well are stark yet beautiful, forming a 60 x 15 meter rectangle made up of a series of superimposed arcades.
Walkways interrupt the walls at three levels, allowing the visitor to explore various alcoves and rooms that once would have been used as sites for retreat or puja during the summer months. Today, the more hazardous of these rooms are secured with gates, and of course, you must avoid the pigeons who claim them as their own private roosts.
While you are at the baoli, be sure and explore the ruins of the mosque at the southwest end of the well. Not much is known about this structure, but it was probably built within the century following the construction the well. Notice the pillars comprised of four uprights, and the incredibly heavy stone barrel vault that functions as the roof.