Ancient Miracle of Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well

India can suffer from indefinite water shortages and droughts that may go on for years. Yet despite this, the water table up to thirty meters below may be flowing freely. The huge Indian population makes conventional wells impractical because too few people can access them at a time. A long time ago, Indians hit on the idea of building step wells, of which the Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well is an exceptionally fine example.

Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well, Dwarka Suburb of New Delhi
Dwarka Suburb of New Delhi: A Savin BY Copyleft Free Art Licence

The Sprawling New Delhi Climate

The landscape where New Delhi grew up around the step well of Agrasen Ki Baoli has always been a harsh place. It labours under a humid subtropical climate with long very hot summers, monsoons, relatively dry and mild winters, and dust storms. Mediaeval Agrawal peasants decided to re-excavate a well they believed to be a gift of gods during one particularly prolonged 14th Century drought.

Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well, Romancing with Delhi
Romancing with Delhi: Himanshu Nagar via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A Short Hisory of the Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well

Indian step well engineering dates back to the Indus Valley civilisation that flourished during the Bronze Age of 3300–1300 BCE. Water step wells and temple step wells were once a common feature of the landscape. Many smaller ones may lie beneath the urban sprawl of India’s capital city.

The portion of the Agrasen Ki Baoli visible above the water table comprises three levels, each embellished with arched niches. On one side, 104 steps descend into the dark depths of the earth. As one follows them, one can look up at a stupendous contrast, the tall white skyscrapers and hotels of New Delhi.

I am indebted to the American archaeologist Victoria Lautmen for this quote. “The contrasts were so pronounced, all my senses were activated. Bright light became murky dark, intense heat became cool surrounding air, and the incessant din above ground became hushed. The deeper I went the more everything transformed.”

Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well, Deep Down Into the Earth
Deep Down Into the Earth: Lens Matter BY CC BY 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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