It is a sanctuary of solitude, barring the cooing of pigeons echoing off the stone walls. The wide stone steps seem endless, punctuated with landings. They taper down at the bottom to meet the well, or what’s left of it. No, this is not the Agrasen Ki Baoli.
This is the lesser-known Rajon Ki Baoli in the lush Mehrauli Archaelogical Park. But it was never a baoli for kings. Built by Daulat Khan in the 1500s during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, it was meant to be used by masons (or rajmistris), hence the name ‘Rajon’.
The Rajon Ki Baoli in Mehrauli was not a baoli for kings, but for masons.
The 66 steps that lead to the well (now full of muck and plastic waste) are flanked by three levels of chambers with ornate arches. It was a favourite venue for social gatherings and an escape from the scorching summer heat. You have to climb to the top of the roof to take in its full grandeur.
Baolis, or stepwells, were built to collect rainwater, to be used all year. Now most baolis have dried up. Delhi once had more than 100 baolis; the number has shrunk to about 15.
A few metres away is the comparatively plainer Gandhak Ki Baoli. It is said that the water here used to smell of sulphur, thus the name ‘gandhak’. Apart from Agrasen Ki Baoli located amidst Connaught Place’s high rises, and Hazrat Nizamuddin’s baoli (with an active underground spring) where you might have seen boys diving into the well, there’s one each in Puraana Qila and Lal Qila.
The sun is shining. But there is a nip in the air. The well is empty. As are the premises. But it is all very grand. I can’t wait to be back in the summer.
From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015
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