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The Chand Baori - A Spectacular Stepwell in Rajasthan, India

A stepwell is a unique water management system in the areas having low rainfall and normally remaining dry. Rainwater harvesting and conservation of water were, therefore, necessitated in such areas to ensure a year-round supply of water for drinking, bathing, irrigation and washing. The arid states of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India often have a period of draught which forced construction of stepwells at many places. By and by these stepwells developed into complex feats of engineering, architecture and art and, in addition to a source of water, became retreats for meditation and prayers.

The Chand Baori (Stepwell) is one such historical marvel in Rajasthan built over a thousand year ago. It is one of the most photogenic and surviving stepwells in India.

The Chand Baori (Stepwell) is one of the oldest, deepest and largest stepwells in Rajasthan (India). It was built by King Chanda of Nikumbha Dynasty in Abhaneri village of Rajasthan in the 8th-9th century AD. The design and structure of the Stepwell aimed at conserving as much water as possible in the extremely arid state of Rajasthan.

The structure is like a upside-down pyramid with three flight of stairs descending into the earth. The fourth side has a subterranean palace. The flight of stairs and the palace are arranged in a square pattern with the well lying at the bottom. The Stepwell was used as a community gathering place for locals during periods of intense heat as the air remained cooler by 5-6 degrees centigrade at the bottom of the well.

The structure is a delight for photographers but is also a nightmare as it is difficult to capture it in its entirety due to the nature of the structure.

Other Names for the Stepwell : Baoli, Baori, or Bawdi in Rajasthan

The original plan did not have the walled enclosure and the entrance, which were added later. The upper stories with the columned arcade around it were built around the 18th century during the Mughal era. The Mughals also added art galleries and a compound wall around the well. Today, these house the remains of exquisite carvings, which were either in the temple or in the various rooms of the stepwell itself.

The design and structure of stairs makes one to believe that it is a feat of mathematical perfection. This architectural wonder exhibits 3,500 perfectly symmetrical, narrow steps spread over 13 stories of ancient times. The Baori narrows as one gets closer to the bottom. Extending to nearly 30 metres (100 feet) into the ground, it is known to be one of the deepest and the largest stepwells in India.

Reaching the bottom could mean negotiating over a hundred steps during dry seasons. But these steps are submerged, sometimes to the surface, during rainy seasons, transforming it into a large cistern.

This architectural wonder also ensures that one does not get down straight but moves down or up sideways using steep triangular steps. It is also said that double flight of steps on three sides makes it is very difficult to retrace the path chosen while coming up after getting down. That would mean that normally it is difficult to remember the set of stairs used to get down.

During a stay for a longer time the play of light and shadow on these steps makes this structure quite captivating and it is a mesmerising experience.

On the fourth side there are pillared corridors making it a three-storeyed pavilion. These corridors have intricately carved jharokhas (windows), galleries and balconies. Two balconies project towards the stepwell and were meant for the royal family to sit in. They are well adorned with beautifully carved idols of Mahisasurmardini and Ganesha.

One could only imagine the type of experience the members of the royal family had sitting in these balconies during rainy season.

The corridors surrounding the stepwell are full of beautiful stones with carvings and sculptures for the visitors to see. Some pillars are also carved.

The Baori was attached to the Harshat Mata temple, a pilgrimage site, which is about 100 meters to the West and formed a complex together with the stepwell. It was a ritual to wash hands and feet at the stepwell before visiting the temple. The temple was built by the same king at the same time but, unfortunately, razed during the 10th century. The remains of the temple are profusely carved and still boast about architectural and sculptural styles of ancient India.

Harshat Mata is considered to be the goddess of happiness and joy and villagers go their for blessings.

Postal Stamp issued by the Government of India

Stamp issued by Government of India

Stamp issued by Government of India

Location used for making Films

Chand Baori has been used as a filming location for a number of films, such as Bhoomi, The Fall, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Paheli, and in 2012 The Dark Knight Rises with Christian Bale as Batman

  • Abhaneri is situated in Dausa district of Rajasthan, about 90 kms from the Pink City, Jaipur. It can be best reached from Jaipur.
  • The route from Jaipur to Chand Baori takes one through Dausa, Sikandra, Gular Chauraha (intersection) and finally Abhaneri.
  • By Road: (a) Roadways bus till Sikandra (about 70 kms from Jaipur). (b) local jeeps and other vehicles (called 'buggha') leaving at an intersection called 'Gular' (around 7 kms from Sikandra). (c) From 'Gular' another jeep (buggha) to Abhaneri, about 5 kms from there.
  • By Train: (a) train from Jaipur to Bandikui. (b) From Bandikui there are two ways to reach Abhaneri (i) either take a jeep (available outside the railway station) to 'Gular', which is around 15 kms from railway station and then 'Gular' to 'Abhaneri' (ii) or find jeeps which go from a shortcut to Abhaneri (around 6 kms from Bandikui) (Requires some walking to find out)
  • Note: Since Abhaneri is not directly connected to Jaipur and is in a remote area, it is advisable to update about timings and availability of modes of journey before embarking upon the journey.

Comments

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on June 30, 2021:

Chitrangada, the stimulus was a photo of a similar structure which I saw about two years back but I did not proceed as that one is virtually abandoned now. Then you know there was a big gap in my contributing to HubPages. But it remained on my priority list. The enormity of the task and the architectural precision exhibited in constructing those steps in 8th-9th century are really difficult to imagine. I understand your love for 'heritage of India' . Thanks for visiting.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on June 30, 2021:

Miebakagh57, I am quite impressed by your comparison with the Taj and other wonderful structures in the world. Those structures are quite visible because they are above the ground. Difficulties faced in constructing Chand Baori underground in 8th-9th century with limited technology are beyond our imagination. But its excellence needs to be appreciated. In spite of being in remote area there are people who visit and appreciate it. Thanks for visiting and insightful comments on the Chand Baori.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on June 30, 2021:

Hello, Eurofile! I am glad you found it informative. There might be no cameras for taking photographs when this structure was made. Also it must be interesting to imagine the way first person photographed it. Above all, the skills of the architect who could maintain all that symmetry throughout (in 8th-9th century) are beyond imagination. Thanks for appreciating the difficulty.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on June 29, 2021:

Thanks, Rery. I am glad you enjoyed reading it.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 29, 2021:

I agree. India seems to be the most spectacular country in Asia, that has many ancient heritages. I believe it's because of her great spiritual strenght that she can achieve such feats.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 29, 2021:

A very well written article about the Chand Baori. Such wonderful architecture, and what a beautiful ancient heritage of India. You have done full justice to this spectacular stepwell structure, by providing the detailed and well researched information, with amazing pictures.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 29, 2021:

Such a well inform article with lovely pictures. Because it was build mostly underground, the Boari was omitted to be one of the wonders of the world? Yet it seems more impressive to me than the Taj, the hangging Babylon gardens, the Chinese great wall and the rests. Only today have I heard of the Chandi. Those who build it are men of excellent engineering feat, artistry bent, and technology innovations that is without parallel. For those who are very curious about the History, arts and culture of India, this article will certainly found you online. Much thanks.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 29, 2021:

This is a very interesting and informative article. The illustrations are excellent. I understand completely your comment about the difficulty of taking photographs. You have presented this fascinating structure very well.

Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 29, 2021:

I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing

Blessing

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