Agrasen ki Baoli – A haunted step well in the heart of Delhi
Agrasen ki Baoli – the name itself piqued our interest to a great height while we were researching Delhi for the first time way back in 2012. But we were able to visit the place only in our 3rd visit to Delhi because the Baoli does not usually feature in the tour operators’ to do list. Also, the Baoli stayed elusive to common eyes for years among the high-rises near Connaught Place. It is located in the narrow Hailey Lane, off the Hailey Road.
You will not believe until you visit the place that such an ancient monument lies hidden among the tall towers of the posh area of New Delhi. Credit also goes to the movie PK starring Aamir Khan for creating awareness about Agrasen ki Baoli. Actually, it is here where PK, the alien played by Aamir Khan took shelter in the movie.
What is a baoli, after all? A Baoli is usually a stepwell with elaborate steps leading down to the source of water at the bottom. A Baoli is also called Bawdi in Hindi, Barav in Marathi, Vaav in Gujarati, Kalyani or Pushkarni in Kannada. These baolis often had an elaborate architecture with multiple levels and designs. Some baolis even had rooms for its users. Baolis served as the main water source for the people. Socially too, baolis were much more than step wells. It served as a community meeting place for people, mostly the women of the neighbourhood. Delhi had numerous baolis in it, but with time and advent of civilization, most of these structures were destructed and had been to oblivion. Agrasen ki Baoli happens to be one of the best maintained Baolis of Delhi and also one of the oldest monuments that Delhi can boast of.
There is no proper documentation as to who built the baoli. But it is believed that the legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharata era around 3124 BC had built the Baoli. It was later rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agarwal community who are said to be descendants of king Agrasen. The Baoli is also called “Ugrasen ki Baoli” as is written on the red sandstone plaque outside the monument.
Agrasen ki Baoli has a unique mix of architecture with intricate designs and unusual structures. The Baoli is constructed of uneven stone units usually known as “rubble masonry”. The Baoli is 60m long and 15 m wide rectangular in shape and is made of superimposed arches supported on piers and columns. There are 103 steps leading down to the well with a series of chambers and passages consisting of 3 levels.
Each of the levels is lined with arched niches on either side. There are also rooms in the Baoli that now remains closed and perhaps happens to be the dwelling places of bats and pigeons. At the northern end of the baoli is a circular well. It is covered by iron grills at the top and is connected to the baoli through a shaft. In the past, as the water rose in the well, it would fill the baoli from the bottom to the top level.
The Baoli does give a grim look. In fact, Agrasen ki Baoli has the reputation of being one the haunted places of New Delhi. It is said that the water of the well was black in colour and the ‘black water’ had often lured people to jump into it and commit suicide. The water was said to entice the people to give up their life. And as one life was sacrificed by jumping into the well, the water level in the well was said to rise up. Whether these stories are true or figments of someone’s imagination cannot be said, but visitor’s do say that they often have an uncanny feel near the well. There are actually hundreds of bats and pigeons inside the baoli and they too can be one of the reasons for this eerie feeling felt in the baoli. While going deeper the sounds totally vanish, only what remains that is an echo of our own footsteps. As this sound becomes louder in a complete vacuum silence, the atmosphere turns more uncanny.
Whatever be the stories around it, Agrasen ki Baoli remains a very interesting place in the heart of Delhi. Mostly college goers now visit the place. The place also is one of the coolest places in Delhi and can be a respite in the scorching heat of Delhi. Visit Agrasen ki Baoli for knowing Delhi better.
Agrasen ki Baoli is only about 1.5 km from the Jantar Mantar and about 2 km from the India gate
Nearest metro station : Rajiv Chowk
Visiting hours: 7 AM to 6 PM
Entry is free