Immerse yourself in history with the baolis of Delhi | Latest Delhi News

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The monsoon is crucial for desiccated baoli, as they wait to resurrect with rainwater; but not in all its glory. Yet these stepwells remain vital, whether for harvesting rainwater, for congregations or selfies with friends. Here is an overview of some of the capital’s baoli and their rich history.

Old Fort baoli is one of three in Delhi that are lined with the falling rays of the sun. (Photo: Shantanu Bhattacharya/HT)

Purana Qila Baoli, Mathura Road

Historian Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, who has written a book on the baoli, says: “When the British decided to clean up the settlements around the Qila, they called in a team to clean up the dump. The garbage collectors continued to clean up the trash, but the dump seemed endless. Soon they realized they were digging into the deep stepwells of the Old Fort. It was later revived and reused. Moreover, Old Fort baoli is one of three in Delhi that are lined with the falling rays of the sun! For this reason, they had to build a roof over the reservoir to prevent the water from evaporating.

Adding his view on the suitability of these water reservoirs, Rooprai says: “The British mentioned stepwells as unsanitary. They found people bathing and washing in the same water they drink. What they failed to notice is that there is deeper physics involved, in which drinking water from the well never mixes with water from the reservoir where the washing or bathing occurs. . In the early 1900s, they documented over 30 step wells in Delhi. Many of them still exist, some are even functional. The British gave them the nickname “Diving Wells” because they enjoyed watching people diving into the water from a high point. In many cases, they paid local boys to go to a nearby high-rise building and jump into the water. In the archives, we have several photos where British visitors pose with these boys, before they go diving.

Jagdish Parat, a student doing an internship at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), says, “I am working for kya to change kar sakte hain to make this baoli more tourist friendly. Also, the underground spring se jo paani aata tha, woh band ho chuka hai. Usko bhi saaf karwana hai.

Baoli by Feroz Shah Kotla, Vikram Nagar

Cultivation enthusiast Sujata Soni Bali says, “In most baoli, the well and the harvesting area are separate. This baoli is a combination of both… It is said that every Thursday, dozens of devotees crowded in front of the baoli and prayed to the jinns. Writer and historian Rana Safvi informs: “Unlike other baolis, this one is circular. It has chambers on both levels around the main shaft which has now been enclosed in a steel grate. This place became famous as pariyon ka kuan (fairy well). In pre-Covid times, I saw many women come here to light diyas and incense sticks, offer flowers and sweets to fairies.

Ghost tours are popular, especially at Agrasen ki Baoli, which has blackened water (Photo: Manish Rajput/HT)

Agrasen Ki Baoli, Hailey Road

“People come here for a moment of peace,” says Abu Sufiyan, cultural revivalist and founder, Purani Dilli Walo Ki Baatein, adding, “Kuch log wahan baith ke gaane gaate hain. Pani ki vibes itni positive hoti hain ki aksar log apne aap ko explore karne yahan aate hai. Unfortunately not all baoli in town are open at this time so mujhe jab bhi peace chahiye hota hai, main Agrasen Ki Baoli jaake baith jata hoon.

Aman Sadh, who organizes tours to Agrasen ki Baoli, says: “This is the oldest stepwell, built in the 14th century. Inside Agrasen Ki Baoli, there is a 60m long step well from where people used to get water. Now it’s just rainwater [that collects here]. There are 108 steps here. It was also called one of the most haunted places in Delhi because the water at that time was black which attracted people and many died there. Today, you can only spot bats!

“Chambers and passageways were protected from water and mainly people gathered for social networking. Ghost tours are popular specially in Agrasen ki Baoli which has blackened water. And other baolis are rich in sulphur, and some have healing properties,” says Sachin Bansal of India City Walks.

History buffs share that workers worked all day on the fort and at night on the Nizamuddin baoli. (Photo: Manish Rajput/HT)

Nizamuddin Baoli

“Nizamuddin Dargah was built at the same time as Sultan Ghiyasud-din Tughlaq was constructing the massive fort of Tughlaqabad. The workers worked all day on the fort and at night on the baoli,” says heritage enthusiast Shah Umair, speaking of the baoli inside the dargah. He adds, “Tughlaq banned the supply of oil from Nizamuddin so that lamps could not be lit at the baoli construction site. This infuriated Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, and he used his mystical powers to turn the water from the well into oil! He also cursed Tughlaqabad saying “Ya rahe ujjar ya base gujjar”. The story goes that the sultan was never able to return to Delhi and died on the way.

Rajon ki Baoli, the archaeological park of Mehrauli has been closed since confinement. (Photo: Manish Rajput/HT)

Rajon ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Did you know that Rajon ki Baoli was commissioned by Daulat Khan Lodhi who was then Governor of Lahore? It was during the reign of Ibrahim Lodhi. Due to Ibrahim’s disaffection, Daulat invited Babur to invade the Lodhi Empire. It is mentioned in the story that this baoli was commissioned in 1506 by Daulat, who 17 years later invited Babur to invade India!

An interesting fact about Red Fort Baoli is that there are stairs on each side to go down. (Photo: Shantani Bhattacharya/HT)

Red Baoli Fort, Chandni Chowk

“Lal Qila baoli sabse anoothi ​​hai,” Asif Khan Dehlvi of Delhi Karavan gushed, sharing, “There was a time when quite a few snakes could be spotted here. An interesting fact is that there are stairs on either side to descend. Historians are divided on the period in which it was built. By yeh us waqt maujood thi jab Lal Qila maujood nahin tha… This baoli also served as a prison. Jab Hindustan mein angrezon ka daur tha, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose ke saathiyon mein se Gurbaksh Singh, Shah Nawaz Khan aur Prem Kumar Sehgal ko iss baoli mein qaid karke rakha gaya tha Unhone (British) kuch changes kiye, jaise kayi chhoti arches ko eenton se bhar diya, salakhen Wagerah lagwa di, aur lagwaya toilets.

Author tweets @Nainaarora8

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Naina Arora writes about City, Art and Culture of Gurugram, for the daily Entertainment & Lifestyle supplement, HT City
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