Tuesday, December 22, 2009

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Connaught Place

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City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

The well of solitude.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Amid business towers and residential apartments, this 14th century baoli, an ancient step-well, is like a blast from the past. Flanked on both sides by niches, chambers and passageways, the 104 stone steps, descending into the well’s dried bottom, have three levels. It is not certain who built this step-well, though some credit a king called Agrasen. Hence the name.

As you enter, look around for a mosque on one side, or listen to the gurgling sound of hundreds of pigeons. Better still, walk down the stairs. The silence deepens, the city skyline disappears and daylight fades.

Centuries ago, this was a reservoir as well as a summer refuge for heat-stricken citizens, living in pre-Lodhi times. As the water level plunged, the people would seek a cooler retreat in the baoli’s lower reaches. Till 2002, there was water (and filth) here. Boys swam, lovers threw wish-making coins… and the depressed jumped.

But the popularity of this baoli, spanning 60 metres in length and 15 metres in width, has evaporated with its water. Despite being a 10-minutes-walk from Connaught Place’s N Block, its ticketless entrance hardly sees any visitors, except that rare backpacker or the odd school tour. Occasionally, some office-goers – the few who know about it – drop in.

The baoli’s solitude is remarkable, but it’s a pity in some ways. Here is a beautiful relic that has travelled far in its time capsule and is holding its own against gleaming skyscrapers and yet its magnificence lies unacknowledged.

Where Hailey Road, near KG Marg, Connaught Place Time 9am-5pm

The view from Hailey Road

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

The first sight

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

Looking down

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

Down the stairs

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

Up the stairs

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

A sliver of sky

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

Enjoying the view

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

The guard

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

Blast from the past

City Secret - Agrasen ki Baoli, Central Delhi

10 comments:

The Wanderer said...

Awesome Mayank, How do you unearth places wich we had right under our noses for the whole time but were unaware of, Lajawaab!

Rajiv said...

maaaaaannnnnnnn gaye ustaad ji,aap ko to.v awl r blind ,i think yaar.hum saale sab andhe hain,hahahahaaha.mind blowing,superb.masaalaahhhhhhhhhh:).aankhein ho to mayank jaisi warna na hooo :D

Ramit said...

I want to go visit this place one day! Thanks for sharing this Mayank.

Peter said...

Mayank:

Have you posted about this place previously, or is there another stepwell in Delhi that I am remembering?

This place certainly deserves to be better known.

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

Peter, it's the first time I wrote on it.

Honey-Snap snatcher said...

You are awesome writer cum snapsnatcher. After reading your blogs and viewing photographs i m ur fan really man.......

Siddhartha said...

Thank you for showing me a treasure that I passed by many many times in the couple of years I lived in Delhi. Though I did see the stonework from a distance - i never had a clue what a masterwork lay just a few footsteps away. Very zen-ish if you ask me - your post is. And yes, from a distance - in Berlin, Germany, i am better able to appreciate what I wouldn't have been able to appreciate living in Delhi.
You take wonderful photographs. I hope to keep logging in and take a few breaths of the Delhi air (!!) every time i log in.
greetings!
- Siddhartha

Ank said...

Yet another great find. MAS I think you have enough material to publish something in the non-online media too!! Go for it. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

tussi great ho bhaisaab !
i saw yr program on tv showing this place...hve been in dilli for 40 yrs and had not heard this place even once,
thanks buddy

Anonymous said...

Saw about this place in TV programme and did a google search,Thanx for the information and showing us the secret side of delhi.