Inventive Ancient Solution to Water Shortages
Hidden among the high-rise buildings around Connaught Place in New Delhi, India, is an ancient wonder – Agrasen Ki Baoli, which dates back to the 14th century. Even locals are often unaware of this ancient monument in their midst.
Back in the 1920s, this baoli, which is a well with steps leading down to the source of water, was easily found because it was surrounded by open land.
But today, only those who are willing to take the time to search for it will be rewarded with the magnificence of this ancient monument.
A baoli, or stepwell, was India’s inventive solution to guarantee year-round water for drinking, bathing, irrigation, and washing. Parts of India suffer from recurring water shortage during most of the year, followed by torrential monsoons for several weeks. Stepwells provided a way to have water even during the dry season.
The first stepwells built between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD were very rudimentary, but their design developed gradually so that by the 11th century, they were amazing feats of architecture.
The point of stepwells is to delve deep into the ground to tap into difficult-to-reach underground water sources. During monsoons, the water level would be high, but during the long dry season, a person could walk down over a hundred steps to retrieve water.
Since most of the structure of a stepwell is below the surface of the land, very little of it is seen until you start down the steps. And since it gets cooler and cooler as you go down, people would often descend in order to escape the heat of the day. As such, stepwells were often a social gathering place.
Today, many stepwells have been abandoned, but some are being resurrected to be used for their original purpose or for tourism. If you have a chance to visit India, be sure to visit one or two.