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?
Rani ki Vav at Patan is a UNSCO World Heritage Site. It is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India. Outside the monument the board says the step well was filled up almost to the top when ASI started digging in 1958! It is difficult to imagine that such a majestic structure could get clogged with debris and pass out of human memory. Patan is a few hours drive from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. You can take a detour to Patan if you are traveling to Little Rann of Kutch from Ahmedabad.
The UNESCO World Heritage Citation tells us the following about the Rani Ki Vav
“Rani-ki-Vav is an exceptional example of a distinctive form of subterranean water architecture of the Indian subcontinent, the stepwell, which is located on the banks of the Saraswati River in Patan. Initially built as a memorial in the 11th century CE, the stepwell was constructed as a religious as well as functional structure and designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water. Rani-ki-Vav is a single-component, water management system divided into seven levels of stairs and sculptural panels of high artistic and aesthetic quality. It is oriented in an east-west direction and combines all of the principle components of a stepwell, including a stepped corridor beginning at ground level, a series of four pavilions with an increasing amount of storeys towards the west, the tank, and the well in tunnel shaft form. More than five hundred principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works.”
It is said that the step well was constructed by the Queen Udayamati in the memory of King Bhimdev I of the Solanki Dynasty. It is said to be build in 11 century CE. The place is spectacular to look at in totality and in its finer details!
I visited Rani ki Vav right after visiting the Sun Temple at Modhera. We started the day with a morning safari at Little Rann of Kutch, then visited the sun temple, followed by the Rani Vav. By now I was a little tired. Our group was so keen on exploring that we had a brunch at 11.00 am and decided to skip lunch so that we could see all the sites. It is a pleasure when you get to travel with such a enthusiastic bunch!
We were quite impressed by the two toddlers at Rani ki Vav. The stairs were almost as high as they were, and yet they walked for most on the part on their own!
I asked my teammate Harsh, “where is the well in this step well? He was an intern with Gujarat Tourism. He told me the well was visible from the other side. And sure enough once I walked out of the main structure and went to the west side, I could see the deep well.
After my recent visits to Jodhpur and Gujarat I have been wondering why did history as a subject made so little impression on me all through my school and college days? I had History as a subject in my graduation too and yet hardly anything registered.
If I will be honest, even while traveling history and culture were not that high on my list. Something has changed recently, maybe it is just that I am getting old and I can somehow appreciate history better now. It still leaves me puzzled that why do we Indians take so little pride in the magnificence of our history? Let me know if you have any answers?
PS. I was invited on this trip by Gujarat Tourism