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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
The first sight
Down the stairs
Up the stairs
A sliver of sky
Enjoying the view
Blast from the past