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BAOLIS – The Water Temples in Delhi

India is rich with its splendorous temples, sculptures, cave painting, forts and palaces. However, something that is quite intriguing with their mind-boggling architecture is the step wells of India.  The baoli’s were not only the life line of the villages or cities but an architectural masterpiece. Also, it always mesmerizing to look at the symmetry that they are built with. They used to be the water harvesting structures too.

BAOLIS;

India is rich with its splendorous temples, sculptures, cave painting, forts and palaces. However, something that is quite intriguing with their mind-boggling architecture is the step wells of India.  The baoli’s were not only the life line of the villages or cities but an architectural masterpieces.

 

AGRASEN KI BAOLI

 

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Going by the architecture, historians believe that this step well was probably rebuilt during the Tughlaq period, after the year 1321 but it is possible that the Tughlaqs did some reconstruction work as well during their reign. The architectural style matches that of the Tughlaqs and the Mughals which means that this Baoli probably was not what it is today. The ancient architectural style that Tomars built it in must have been quite different than the one we see today. Vibudh also mentions that NattalSahu undertook the work of rebuilding this Baoli at a huge expense because he traced its origins back to legendary King Agrasen of Mahabharata Era. Being a highly religious man, Nattal’s idea was that of paying respect to the gods by bringing this Baoli back to its glory. Once the restoration was completed, it was NattalSahu himself who named it as Agrasen Ki Baoli, after King Agrasen.

 

GANDHAK KI BAOLI:

 

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Iltutmish had built ‘Gandhak Ki Baoli’ for Khwaja Sayed Muhammad Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki who was a well renowned Sufi Saint during his reign who had greatly inspired the Sultan through his Islamic teachings. This well was once famous amongst the local inhabitants used as a sports venue for diving and swimming but unfortunately, this historical and ancient monument is in a neglected state and has dried up through the years. This is one baoli that, true to its original purpose, continues to function as a venue for social congregations while providing respite from the sweltering heat.

 

BAOLI OF NIZAMUDDIN:

 

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Built amidst a lot of chaos and shortage of labourers, the construction of this baoli took place under pretty interesting circumstances. According to most locals, Nizamuddin was building this baoli at the same time as GhiyasuddinTughlaq (the then ruler of Delhi) was building his fortress in Tughlaqabad. This infuriated the ruler so much that he barred all the Delhi labourers from working anywhere other than the Tughlaqabad fort all day.

Surprisingly, the labourers were so devoted to the Sufi saint that they found a loophole in the above ban and started working at the baoli site at night. This only added fuel to the fire so Ghiyasuddin decided to ban the fuel itself i.e. he banned the sale of oil used in lighting lamps. Now this is where the story takes up different versions as per the locals. Some believe that the construction of the baoli was completed under the moonlight while some say that the holy water of the baoli was used instead of oil to light the lamps.

 

RAJON KI BAOLI:

 

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The Rajon Ki Baoli is a step well that has its own niche among monuments, as a relic of the last pre-Mughal dynasty, the Lodhis. It is believed to have been built by Daulat Khan in the time of SikanderLodhi. It is said to have been used for some time by Raj Mistri (masons). Pluralised, that is how the structure got its name. Since most of the structure is subterranean, only the topmost storey is visible above the ground.

 

RED FORT BAOLI:

 

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It is no wonder that the Mughal emperor Shahjahan, during the course of construction of his magnificent Red Fort, renovated & elaborately redesigned the Tughlaq-era baoli that pre-existed at the site of the fort complex. The Tughlaqs ruled over Delhi from AD 1320-1414, more than 200 years before Shahjahan ascended the throne. Before the construction of the Red Fort, another fortress called Salimgarh existed at that particular site (Shahjahan integrated Salimgarh with Red Fort & used it for housing his troops & prisoners), & some historians concede that the baoli might have also been used by the inhabitants of Salimgarh. Shahjahan, being a skilled architect-builder, worked on the baoli & turned it into a unique specimen of architecture serving both form & function.

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