Well Hidden

It was in the first week of March, late in the afternoon. Winter was receding and the weather was just perfect for going monument hunting.

Before leaving, we ran a quick search on the internet. A map in hand, we got off at the Qutab Minar Metro station and walked along the road. After about fifteen minutes, we entered a small opening.

It’s called a park. But we soon realised we were in a jungle.

The water ‘stream’ which served as our landmark

We tried to figure out where we were on the map. We turned the map around, trying to align it with the shadows, to get a sense of which direction to head towards. As it turned out, we were poor map readers. We took different paths, each one giving us different leads, and none of them making any presence on the map.

Along each dust road, we saw broken and crumbling remains of the past, surrounded by the filth of ‘modern’ day. The old ruins told us we were somewhere – but not exactly where. After taking three different roads, and ending up at the same water stream, I folded the map and put it inside my pocket.

We asked some locals for directions. Some of them gave us a vague direction in which to go. One lady pointed out that we had entered the wrong gate, and that the proper entrance was ahead along the main road. There was, however, a way through the village. We had come too far inside. If we were to turn back, it would only be to return another day.

A middle-aged gentleman gave us two sets of directions; the one he recommended, was longer and clean, through the main road; the other was shorter and filthy, through the village. We gambled on the shorter one. We had already walked a lot, and since we were wearing shoes, we didn’t think filth would be much of a problem. If only we knew better.

Was this a garbage dumping ground 4 centuries ago?

We walked along the narrow, steep village roads and crossed a stretch of rotting garbage. But it was a foul-smelling stretch of pigs, which made us run as fast as we could. We continued on the path, wondering what else was in store. As per the directions, we had to take another turn. There were trees all around and we still couldn’t figure out where we were. We decided between ourselves, that if we did not find anything in the next 5 minutes, we’d look for the way out.

And then, just after turning, we saw a stone signboard.

The wall, well hidden; the security guard stands out like a sore thumb

Almost an hour after entering the jungle, we stood facing a stone wall. We walked around and climbed up the stairs.

Rajon ki baoli, read the stone sign.  The mason’s stepwell. We had reached what we had come looking for. Tired wanderers, the thirst of our eyes was finally quenched with the sight of the well.

For those of you who have a little better sense of direction, hopefully this map will help. Clearly, we didn’t do our homework properly. To view the interactive map on Google Maps, click here. For better photographs, ask Wiki

How to reach Rajon ki baoli
How to reach Rajon ki baoli
How to get a good workout
How to get a good workout

The Old, Beneath The New

A gallery tour of Ugrasen ki Baoli – not really on a tourist’s itinerary. But then, not even locals are aware of its presence!

Ugrasen ki Baoli

Delhi has been loved, and loathed, by people for centuries. She has been built, razed to the ground, and rebuilt, by the same people who destroyed her.

The city has always been the favourite city of successive rulers. The proof of their love, lies in the monuments they constructed, that are spread across the city. Most of the newer buildings were constructed at the site of older structures. So the Fort of Rai Pithora, was razed to the ground, only for the Qutub Minar to be built.

Purana Qila (Old Fort) was built by Humayun, only to be destroyed by Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah built his own capital at that site, only for Humayun to return! But even before the battles between these kings, an ancient civilization existed there – excavations of objects and pottery dating back to 1000 BC proving the antiquity of the Fort.

Besides the most obvious monuments, there are several smaller ones – those that are not on a tourist’s itinerary. They are hidden from public view. Even locals, never fully explore the city. To peel away the different layers of the city, requires more than just a few days. To understand what makes immigrants fall in love with the city, requires more than a lifetime.

In our quest to explore the ‘other’ side of Delhi, a few of us visited a baoli.

A baoli is a step-well, unique to the desert regions of western India. Ugrasen ki Baoli, is just off the main road near Connaught Place (Rajiv Chowk), at the heart of Delhi.

A short walk from the Barakhamba Metro station led us to the walls of the baoli. It looked like any other stone wall we’d seen, until we stepped inside. We collectively gasped at the sight in front of us – a long flight of steps leading to the bottom of the well.

There were scores of pigeons happily going about their daily lives, unaware of their historical home; a few groups of people, wanting to ‘hang out’ together; and one youth, working on his laptop, seeking refuge from the harsh heat!

We descended the stairs, to be welcomed by a very strong odour and screeching sounds. We looked up from the bottom of the well, to the ceiling of the tower – bats. We climbed up the stairs faster than we had descended!

The old, the new, and the pigeons – The three elements that define Delhi – A gallery tour

Related Links:
My friend who introduced the baoli to me, posted a few photographs on one of his posts too. Do check them out here.