Stepwells in India came into existence long long back. They were born out of necessity, simple water reservoir kind of structure. They were dug deep into earth and steps were created so that villagers could reach the lowest level during dry hot months when water level recedes considerably…
during monsoon torrential rains filled these wells and that guaranteed the year long uninterrupted supply of water.
These stone cistern looking down deep into heart of earth were marvels of architecture even in their most simplest forms and some of those which evolved in their structures are astounding to look at.
One such step well is Chand Baoli in Abhaneri in Rajasthan.
We started from jaipur very early in the morning and after spending few hours at Bhangarh we covered Abhaneri too the same day. Though before visiting Chand baori I had read about it and seen pictures too but nothing prepared me for the astounding magnificence of the structure. Symmetrical steps running down in an identical pattern on the three side walls of massive reservoir created an impact of rhythmical, harmonious ode… an ode it is..ode to the skill, craftsmanship and imagination of those artist/ sculptors of bygone era.
The terraced steps walk down to almost thirteen levels and each level is said to be of about five feet. The number of steps carved is said to be approximately 3500. At the end water lay studded like a precious stone in the frame of the ring. On the fourth side are built three pillared enclosures, on the pillars facing water are sacred images of Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha.

It is said that the place was earlier known as Abhanagari which later on was distorted into Abhaneri. Chand Bawari was built in 8th to 9th century by Chand Raja, the then ruler of the area. The Bawari is named after him only. It is said that long back there were two rivers in the area Bana river and Sang river. This bawari was built between these two rivers in such a way that during rainy season when the level of water in the rivers used to rise, the water flowed into the Bawari. I think that served two purposes … if at all the torrential rains threatened to submerge the area in floods, that danger was completely obliterated and second one of course the obvious one, the water was stored in the well to be used during summers when there was scarcity of water. Today also it is said that level of water during monsoon rises about three levels from below.
We were also told that originally on the fourth side was a ramp going down. This was built for taking down the animals to drink water. Later on that small summer palace was built by Raja Man Singh first. There are rooms in which royal family used to rest seeking refuge from the scorching heat of summers. Not only for royal family the steps of the well also served as sanctuary for travellers and common public providing them cool respite from hot sun above. This place also served as an arena for public meetings conducted by royal family. villagers used to sit on the steps on three sides while king, queen and other dignitaries of importance sat on the chhataris built on fourth side. What a multi utilitarian structure ! and to this day the astounding master piece stand there quenching our thirst for aesthetic and beauty.
Chand Baori, it’s premises, the lawns surrounding it – all are very well maintained, neat, clean, sparkling.
In the premises around the bawari runs covered verandahs on three sides. These verandahs serve as a kind of open museum of a number of finest sculpted, carved idols. It is said that these sculptures were part of the adjacent Harshat mata temple. The temple was plundered and destroyed/damaged by Mahmud Gazhani . Later on these sculptures scattered all over the area were collected and kept here. The temple still is there. But I shall talk about the temple and beautiful sculptures in my another post.
outside Chand bowri there is a small market where besides few eateries one can also find few shops of local handicrafts.

 

Locals there told us that on way back to Jaipur from Abhaneri if we have time we can also visit Bhandarej ki Bawari. From Dausa this bawari is about three km. away. We didn’t go there due to paucity of time in hand but thought of mentioning it, if some other enthusiast is interested in exploring.bundi_23nw

closer to the heart of earth runs the nectar of life

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Asymmetry might be compelling but then symmetry is so comforting.

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All Pictures by Sunder Iyer