Rainwater Harvesting The Old Way: Stepwells of Delhi

Stepwells are the traditional aquifers that are unique to India. These architectural marvels were usually commissioned by queens or members of the King’s harems as a social commitment for providing a source of water for the community. Constructed between seventh to thirteen century, most of these stepwells were built in the arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Some however were also constructed in Delhi and are known for their simplicity and quite dignity. These shaded reflecting pools provided natural air conditioning making them the social networking sites of those days where people would meet on hot afternoons.  One of the most neglected monuments of Delhi, their number has shrunk from 100 to 15 over the last few decades. Some of these are:

Nizamuddin ki baoli

Built by the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin this well is invested by the faith of millions of pilgrims who visit the shrine of this sufi saint. While it was being constructed Delhi was ruled by Ghiyasuddin Tughlak who at that moment was building his own city of Tughlakabad. On realising that some workers were building this well at night instead of his city, he banned the sale of oil for the lamps that lit up the darkness. Legend has it that Nizamuddin then instructed his disciple Naseeruddin to use the baoli water to light the lamps and in this way the baoli was completed. It was after this that the saint conferred upon his disciple the title of Roshan Chirag Dilli.

Nearest Metro Station: Jungpura

nizamuddin ki baoli

Agrasen ki baoli

Located in the heart of Delhi on Hailey road near Connaught Place, this baoli is one of a kind. Constructed in 1506 it is often described as the finest baoli of Delhi. This 60 meter long well has three levels, each of which lined with arched niches on both sides. Of the total 103 steps some remain permanently immersed in water even today. This well is famous (or rather infamous) for another reason- it is considered the tenth most haunted place in India. Legend has it that it was earlier filled with black water, which attracted a lot of evil spirits who would call upon the living to give their lives to raise the water level of the well. Some people believe it is the stepwell’s design that produces a spooky effect when one climbs down its steps. Haunted or not, this well sure gets a lot of attention from the film fraternity – the latest bollywood movie to be shot here was PK!

Nearest Metro Station: Barakhamba Road/Rajiv Chowk


Gandhak ki baoli

Constructed in the thirteenth century during the reign of Iltutmish, this is the oldest surviving baoli of Delhi. The baoli is so named because of its sulphur (gandhak) rich water. This well was known for its healing properties for skin ailments, and was most likely one of the first spas of Delhi. Located next to the Qutb Minar, and to the south of Adham Khan’s tomb in Mehrauli, it has five underground storeys.

Nearest Metro Station: Qutub Minar


Rajon ki baoli

Even though the well is now dry, Rajon ki baoli is one of the prettiest baolis in Delhi. Considered to have been built by Daulat Khan during the reign of Sikander Lodhi in 1516, this baoli was mostly used by masons – hence the name ‘Rajon’. With 66 steps and deeply recessed arches decorating the lowest visible storey, it is an exquisitely designed well. It is located in the Mehrauli Archaeological park with a 100 other monuments.

Nearest Metro Station: Qutub Minar


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