While India is widely known for its spectacular temples, palaces, culture and of course delicious food, it is also home to some remarkable baoris that, despite sometimes being overshadowed by the more well-known landmarks, are equally as impressive to visit.
Baori, the Indian word for stepwells, is a stair-like structure carved into the ground with the water accessible by descending the steps to the bottom. A baori is not to be confused with a well, which is a hole dug in the ground deep enough to reach the water and gathered via a pulley system. The stepwells are much larger with multiple levels and are magnificent feats of architecture.
Built for providing water for drinking, bathing, washing or more importantly, irrigation for crops, baoris also served as sanctuaries for travellers passing by during the heat of the day.
Our favourite, the Chand Baori, is a stunning geometric complexity that can be found in the Abhaneri village of Rajasthan and is believed to have been built between the 8th and 9th centuries. Not only is it considered one of the oldest stepwells in Rajasthan but it’s one of the biggest in the entire world. In fact, it is said to have been built by King Chanda of the Chauhan Dynasty and dedicated to Harshat Mata, the Goddess of joy and happiness – no wonder it’s such a masterpiece.
Chand Baori is an impressive 13 stories deep with 3,500 narrow steps taking you down 20 metres to the water. Steps are only found on three sides while the fourth has pavilions built on top of each other that house intricate sculptures and religious carvings.
The main purpose of Chand Baori was to provide irrigation to the crops, and as Rajasthan is quite dry, the stepwell was built to also conserve water with its wide mouth being the rain catcher as the water funnels its way to the bottom.
The Abhaneri locals gathered here during the long, hot summer days to cool off as temperatures at the bottom are always five to six degrees cooler than at the top.
Folk tales claim that this particular stepwell is haunted, and no human has ever been able to use the same set of stairs to get down as well as back up. While that is still debatable, it certainly makes for an interesting stop on our popular Golden Triangle tour.
On this classic tour, you will have the chance to experience different sides of Indian culture; from the contrasts of Old and New Delhi, to the historic city of Agra, trying to spot the tigers in Ranthambore and exploring the beautiful palaces and architecture of Jaipur.
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