I am a big fan of stepwells. When I realized that there is a stepwell, Tooriji ka Jhalra in the old city at Jodhpur, I decided to go.
The cab dropped me off at Ghanta Ghar or the clock tower. It was my first foray into the old city even though this was my second trip to Jodhpur.
Right at the Ghanta Ghar there are two legendary shops, Janta Sweets and Mishrilal Hotel. Take your fill of Kachori, lassi, mirchi vada and the likes from these shops. Or like me, you can leave it for later.
Stops on the Way
I was walking straight to the Baori. But on the way there are street vendors selling all kind of knick knacks. I was stopped by a bangle seller and I ended up buying some for my daughter.
I next stopped at the Moon House Haveli which is home to popular Indian Brands like Andraab, Nicobar, Good Earth, Forest Essentials etc.
I was curious and went into Andraab declaring right at the door that I was only looking around. I was still welcome and I had a great chat about handicrafts, Pashmina and Kashmir. They have stunning designs at stunning prices.
I also had a great conversation with the staff at Good Earth. I did not know that it was a Royal Enfield venture! The Dharamshala Tea Company which sells through Good Earth was doing a tea tasting session at the Haveli. I did end up buying tea for home!
Toorji Ka Jhalara
The legend says that the stepwell was built by a queen, consort of Maharaja Abhaya Singh in 1740. But like many things in India it turned into a garbage dump in the modern times. Then came the JDH Restoration Project. JDH is the airport code for Jodhpur. You can read an account of JDH and restoration from the links.
Then I ventured to the Tooriji Baoli and I was then immersed in taking pictures. The Baoli is popular both with the tourists and locals, all trying to find a good angle and a good picture! I even gate crashed a plandid at the baori, that is the first picture in this post!
The day was already turning hot in February. There were only a few locals and tourists hanging around. I have a feeling that the local youth still swims in the baori.
Cafes by the Jhalara
Then I headed to the Open House Cafe which is right next to the Tooriji Baoli. There are two actually, the other called the Stepwell Cafe. I liked the blues of the Open House and decided to give them a try. I can vouch that Maggi tastes great near a stepwell too!
Lassi, Kachoris and the Like
I then started my walk back to the Ghanta Ghar but I had enough time to visit Misrilal Hotel and have a mawa Kachori and Makhania Lassi. Both tasted divine and I was ready to head back to my cozy homestay Surya Kunj!
If you are visiting Jodhpur do not miss out on visiting Toorji ka Jhalra. I am told there are more stepwells in the city, so that information has been stored for the next visit.
When I started in the morning I had no plans to go to the Agrasen Ki Baoli today. But I still ended up there. I was coming home in the Metro, it was before 10.00 am. The train was so crowded that I gave up at Rajeev Chowk and sat in CCD at the metro station to avoid the crowds. However, even after coffee the station was crowded so I walked out. Eventually I took an auto to Agrasen ki Baoli purely on a whim! I knew that by the time I would come back, the office hour rush would be over!
This was my second visit to the monument. Agrasen ki Baoli is said to be built by Maharaja Ugrasen, the forefather of the Agrawal community, in the ancient times. The stepwell is supposed to have been rebuilt by the Agrawals later in the late Tughlaq or Lodhi period. There are many stepwells across India which were used for water management in the olden times. Apart from performing a necessary function the baolis are a thing of beauty too.
Agrasen ki Baoli measures 60 meters long and 15 meters wide. There is a long flight of uneven steps that takes you down to the well. Along the steps there are arches on the walls. You can see that there are many levels to the stepwell.
If you Goolge for the monument you will find some references to the place being haunted. I was not even aware of the fact till I searched today. On both my trips I did not feel even in the slightest that the place was haunted. But then, that is just me.
The place is popular with school and college students and couples. In that sense I was the odd person out, being a lone visitor. There was one family too, you can see the lady climbing down the steps.
Everyone, except the security guard, is interested in taking pictures at the monument. I was no exception, only I was not taking my pictures!
I had a chat with the security guard. He is also from UP so that was the icebreaker. He said if things went out of hand with the college kids they simply call the police control room. When I was there, only one all boys group was loud. When no one paid them any attention, they too quietened down.
Agrasen ki Baoli has been featured in two popular Bollywood movies PK and Sultan. There were not many people today as it was a weekday. I am told the place gets crowded on the weekends. There is no entry fee to the monument. It is an ASI protected monument.
I am happy that I decided to walk back to the nearest metro station, Barahkamba Road. Google Maps showed that it was a 11 minute walk and I was game. When you walk out of the narrow ally do take note of the graffiti done by Harsh Raman and others.
By the time I reached back to Barakhamba Road Metro Station, there was no trace of the rush hour.
I had been a part of the hurrying crowd for so long. It feels good that I can now sidestep it sometimes! Since the trip was unplanned I only had my cell phone with me to click the pictures.
I have been to Jaipur umpteen times. My association with Jaipur started in 1990s when I did my graduation and post-graduation at Banasthali Vidyapeet. If you wish to read more about Jaipur check out the Expedia guide, where I am quoted as well.
And yet it took me 16 years to stumble upon Panna Meena ki Baori. It is also known as Panna Mian Ki Baroi or Kund. A Baori is a stepwell, an ancient way to do water harvesting. In water scarce places like Rajasthan it would have been crucial. And they made it beautiful too.
I visited Jaipur for the Rajasthan Diwas Celebrations. Diganata Bandopadhyay, a journalist and I were keen to go sightseeing on the last day of our trip as we had free time. He did a Google search at dinner and found a mention of Panna Meena ki Baori. Both of us were keen to visit it the next day. It also helped that the baori is close to Amber Fort.
In the morning we asked our driver Lakshman if he knew the location of the baori? He said he would call a friend and figure out. After the phone call, he told us he would take us there. I am surprised that the place has not gone mainstream given its proximity to the much visited Amber Fort.
When we went there, it had just a handful of visitors. Some of them were college students making sketches by the baori. We also met an Australian traveler who told us he visited a bigger baoli called Chand Baoli but it is about 90 kilometers from Jaipur. His next stop was Lahore, he was spending 11 nights in Pakistan! I have marked Chand Baoli for a future visit!
Panna Meena ka Kund is said to have been built in the 16th century as a community place. It was a place to gather, relax and conversation as it would be cooler by the water tank in the hot summers. Beyond that much is not known.
Of late I have been wondering, why do we take so little pride in our heritage? Here is a beautiful structure in the close vicinity of a world famous monument, Amber Fort, and yet we are unable to market it! What do you think?