29 September 2014

Gandhak ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi


A few posts ago, I wrote an article pertaining to Rajon ki Baoli in Mehrauli Archaeological Park (Pixelated Memories - Rajon ki Baoli). Continuing with the thread, we head to Gandhak ki Baoli located not very far from the former at the periphery of the park and demarcating the vast complex from the congested, overcrowded Mehrauli village. The easiest way to reach the baoli therefore is not through the forested archaeological complex stuffed with thorny shambles and dense overgrowth, but from the outside – simply walk from Adham Khan’s tomb/Mehrauli bus terminal towards the adjacent shrines dedicated to Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Sardar Banda Bahadur (the nondescript route is indicated by numerous markers and painted signage along the road), the baoli is only a couple of meters from the bus terminal along the route. In a commentary on the neglect on the part of authorities towards this beautiful medieval structure, though there are direction markers leading to the shrines, there are none indicating the presence of the baoli.

Containing water rich in sulphur ("gandhak") that is considered beneficial for skin ailments, the baoli was constructed during the reign of Sultan Shamshuddin Iltutmish (AD 1296-1316) – one belief is that the Sultan himself swiftly commissioned the baoli when he arrived uninvited to Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki’s monastery and learnt that the saint, not being able to avail potable water for the purposes of bathing and ablutions, was forced to remain in a disheveled and unwashed state. The unadorned structure possesses five levels and diminishes in thickness as it descends deeper underground in order to withstand the increased subterranean pressure. The two monotonously plain arms of the baoli are composed of rough rubble and stone; simplistic narrow walkways define the boundary between the successively less wider levels and there are neither chambers circumambulating the structure nor alcoves ornamenting the surface as is the case with most baolis throughout the city. Only the topmost level displays a rudimentary cloistered area utilizing thin pillars that are reminiscent of pillars observed in the nearby Qutb complex (refer Pixelated Memories - Qutb Complex) that were derived from Hindu and Jain shrines for the construction of Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque; the lower levels display just two pillars demarcating the wall that separates the baoli tank from the well shaft behind. Despite its location in a naturally arid region unable to retain monsoonal overflow, the baoli continues to remain brimming with cool water for a major part of the year – in fact, though I visited the monument in scorching June and July, it was filled with water till just below its topmost level and local children were diving from the terraces into the tank. The splash of divers, combined with the laughter and shrieks of kids and the shouts of the elders sitting along the stairs and exchanging everyday news and gossip, is indescribable since it immediately transports an onlooker to a time framed eight centuries ago when the baoli was constructed since the scene hasn’t changed at all since then. 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.


Water, water everywhere


The baoli has not remained untouched by the urbanization pressure exerted by an ever expanding congested neighborhood and while its periphery has been wedged in by high iron railings, the entire area around has been engulfed by thickly populated residences and shanties – notwithstanding the important legislation prohibiting construction activities in a 100 meter radius around a monument, the baoli’s backyard has been taken over by a slum and commercial establishments are being ominously raised and run along the road snaking adjacent to the baoli unmindful of its historicity or heritage value. Though Delhi High Court severely reprimanded the municipal authorities and police way back in March 2014 on account of their failure to curb construction activities, I noted buildings coming up and being renovated immediately opposite the baoli as late as July 2014. As it is, the baoli already remains dry part of the year and is experiencing a decrement in its water level on account of the relentless massive water supply requirement of the local population, the construction work further compounds the problem many fold and endangers the baoli structure. It would be a major loss if the neglected baoli is any further damaged – the serene experience of being magically transported back in time and being alienated from the noise and commotion that ensues outside the enclosure is simply otherworldly and would be hard to replicate if this majestic 800-year old water monument is lost. There was a era long gone by when divers would jump in the water chasing after the coins thrown by visitors – that age is never coming again given Delhi’s depleted water table and the impossibility of reviving it; hope we don’t reach a situation in the future when people rue the absence of water in the baoli. 


And not a drop to drink! (Photo courtesy - Wikimedia.org)


Sincerest thanks to Rangan Datta, a very warm person and an amazing blogger chronicling Calcutta's culture and monuments (Rangandatta.wordpress.com) for visiting the Mehrauli area with me and helping explore almost a dozen monuments, including this baoli.

Location: Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Open: All days, Sunrise to Sunset
Entrance Fees: Nil
Nearest Bus stop: Lado Serai
Nearest Metro Station: Saket
How to Reach: The Archaeological Park's entrance is immediately opposite Lado Serai bus stop and at the intersection of Mehrauli-Badarpur and Badarpur-Gurgaon roads. The metro station is further away and one can avail a 10-min bus ride from Saket to Lado Serai. Sandstone markers indicate the routes to different monuments inside the park.
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: Approx. 20 min
Note – There are no facilities (toilets, food or drinking water) available within the Archaeological Park. While you can avail food & refreshments at one of the restaurants at Lado Serai, you can only find toilets at the shopping malls close to Saket Metro Station, almost a kilometre away. The park remains deserted in the evenings and is best avoided then by female enthusiasts.
Other famous baolis in Delhi -
  1. Pixelated Memories - Agrasen ki Baoli
  2. Pixelated Memories - Baoli, Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
  3. Pixelated Memories - Feroz Shah Kotla fortress and baoli
  4. Pixelated Memories - Rajon ki Baoli
  5. Pixelated Memories - Red Fort Baoli
  6. Pixelated Memories - Baoli, Wazirpur cluster

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sahil, it was a pleasure to have your company during the visit to Mehurali.

    ReplyDelete