Vanishing Baolis – The Unique Stepwells Of India

The unique stepwells of India, called Baoli’s (or Vavs in Gujurat), are ornate, complex structures that are legacies of the subcontinent’s ancient hydraulic engineering systems. 

Agrasen ki Baoli - Stepwell in New Delhi
Agrasen ki Baoi, astepwell in New Delhi

Along the way those vital water harvesting and storing skills were abandoned, and the wells dried up and silted over, and ended up as giant garbage dumps. It is astonishing how much wisdom a society culls over centuries, and then gives it all up in the name of progress!

With modern methods of water management not standing us in much good stead, there is a resurgence of interest in these traditional skills. But like all things Indian, reviving them is a painfully slow process, and only a few, closest to tourist attractions, have been restored to some degree of their original splendour. 

Delhi has several stepwells – one right inside the Red Fort – that are beautiful, even if less splendid than their Gujurati and Rajasthani counterparts. I have featured two, the Agrasen ki Baoli that was practically next to our hotel in Janpath, and the Rajon ki Baoli in the Mehrauli archaeological park.

Rajon ki Baoli - Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi
Rajon ki Baoli adjoining Adham Khan’s tomb in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi
Rajon ki Baoli - Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi
Rajon ki Baoli – Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi

Victoria S Lautman’s insightful article, “India’s Forgotten Stepwells“, features several more stunningly beautiful wells, and explores their architecture and function in fascinating detail. She concludes with: “…gather your friends, get on a plane, and go see them for yourself before they disappear for all time.

I intend to do just that.

Posted by

Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

72 thoughts on “Vanishing Baolis – The Unique Stepwells Of India

  1. Fascinating. You are soo lucky getting to see these, India has such a heritage of making an art form of such utilitarian but vital structures of everyday life. I wonder if some of it’s modern edifices will stand the passage of time so well.

Leave a Reply to flickrich Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.