Chand Baori Rajasthan, The Deepest Step Well in the World, History, Architecture of Chand Baori, Harshat Mata Temple, Travel Tips, Shopping in Chand Baori, Best time to visit Chand Baori, How to Reach Chand Baori.
About Chand Baori
The Chand Baori is a stepwell built over a thousand years ago in the Abhaneri village of Rajasthan. Abhaneri, Jaipur, is a small village in Rajasthan. Abhaneri is famous for the deepest step well in world. The well is located opposite to a temple known as Harshat Mata temple. It is believed that the Chand Baori step well has some religious connection and that’s the reason to build it in front of the temple. The step well is a square construction measuring 35 mtr on each side. 3 out of the four side hve steps that lead down to the bottom of the well. These steps were used to draw water from the well.
It is one of the largest stepwells in the world and also one of the most beautiful ones. Located in the eastern part of the province of Rajasthan, it was built by King Chanda somewhere in the 9th century. The Chand Baori is not an easy landmark to find, thus it is one of the hidden secrets of India! Stepwells, also called bawdi or baori, are unique to this nation. The wells have steps built into the sides that lead down to the water. Today, the construction is not used as a well anymore but its exquisite geometry attracts local and international visitors alike.
Chand Baori one was built during the 8th and 9th centuries and has 3,500 narrow steps arranged in perfect symmetry, which descend 20m to the bottom of the well. Centuries ago, the stepwells were built in the arid zones of Rajasthan to provide water all year through.
About 64 feet deep, it is India’s largest and deepest stepwells with 13 floors and was built in the 9th century for water harvesting. It was so named as it was built by King Chand Raja from the Gujara Pratihara clan, who claim to be the descendant of Lord Ram’s younger brother Laxman. The Pratihara dynasty was at their peak during 6th-10th century AD, and also ruled over other parts of Rajasthan. Their capital was Mandore near Jodhpur.
The baori has a precise geometrical pattern, hard to find in this age. The steps form a magical maze and the consequent play of light and shadow on the structure gives it a captivating look. It has an enclosed rectangular courtyard kind of structure. Upon entering you reach a jharokha (windows).
Descending the stairs on the left, you can see the cavernous baori narrowing towards the bottom, criss-crossed with double flights of steps on three sides to reach the water surface down below. The stairs encircle the water on the three sides while the fourth side boasts of a pavillion with three storeys with beautiful carved jharokhas, galleries supported on pillars and two projecting balconies enshrining beautiful sculptures.
In a stepwell, there is a central, vertical shaft with water, which spreads out to a pool with a broad mouth, around which steps are built. The baoli itself can be round, rectangular, or square, and built with the simplicity or magnificence of the means at the command of the builder. The number of subterranean passages and rooms all around also depended on the same.
The depth of the stepwell depended on underground water levels, and thus inspired elaborate designs for the steps. These were the precursors of exclusive clubs in ancient and medieval India where people could hang out with each other, provide hospitality to guests from out of town, and also get water for their daily needs.
This water management system was discouraged by the British who couldn’t digest the fact that the same water was used for drinking as well as washing and bathing. They already had their own exclusive clubs and smoke rooms, so they developed systems of pumps and pipes. This led to the drying up, clogging, and eventual deterioration of an ancient lifestyle. Though north India has many baolis, with Delhi alone boasting of around 30, some of which are still functional, my heart gladdened when I visited the one in Abhaneri in Dausa district in Rajasthan. It is one of the world’s oldest, deepest, and most spectacular stepwells.
Called the Chand Baori of Abhaneri, it is a feat of mathematical perfection from an ancient time. It has 3,500 steps built on 13 levels, and with the most amazing symmetry as they taper down to meet the water pool. Said to be an upside-down pyramid, this baori was built between the 9th and 10th century by Raja Chanda of the Chauhan dynasty.
The baori was attached to the Harshat Mata temple. It was a ritual to wash hands and feet at the well before visiting the temple. The temple was razed during the 10th century, but its remains still boast architectural and sculptural styles of ancient India. Harshat Mata is considered to be the goddess of happiness, always imparting joy to the whole village. Now there are railings, and so we can’t go down the steps. But the temperature at the bottom is five-six degrees cooler, and must have provided solace during the hot summer days and nights to the locals.
Later, the Mughals added galleries and a compound wall around the well. Today, these house the remains of exquisite carvings, which were either in the temple or in the various rooms of the baoli itself. The Chand Baori is one of the few stepwells, or rather step pond as Morna Livingston writes in Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India , that showcases “two classical periods of water building in a single setting.”
An upper palace building was added to one side of the baoli, which can be seen from the trabeated arches used by the Chauhan rulers and the cusped arches used by the Mughals. Access to these rooms is now blocked for tourists. Much as I wanted to, I couldn’t go in, and can only use my imagination.
Harshat Mata Temple
There are two attractions here, one is the Baori and 2nd an ancient temple of Harshat Mata, which is now dedicated to Durga as this temple was destroyed during Mahmud Ghazni invasion of India.
Nevertheless, the temple has some great ancient artefacts for all travelers, and I was able to get these pictures for you and me.
- Abhaneri is in Dausa district of Rajasthan, about 90 km from Jaipur. It is best to do it as a day trip from Jaipur.
- On the way to Chand Baori, you can also visit Bhangarh Fort – the most haunted place in India.
- You need 30-60 minutes to see Abhaneri. I spent about 2 hours as I was exploring all possible sculptures.
- Guides are available at the site, but if you have read this post, you would not really need them.
Shopping in Chand Baori
There are several shopping malls and markets in the locality where one can shop for local handicrafts and special Rajasthani gifts and items.
Best time to visit Chand Baori
The best time to visit Abhaneri is between October to March.ë_ If you are a monsoon lover, June to September can be a good time to visit Abhaneri.
How to Reach Chand Baori
Air: Delhi and Jaipur provide convenient access to Abhaneri. They are the nearest airports. From there you can take a bus or cab to Abhaneri.
Rail: Jaipur offers the most expedient railway access to Abhaneri. It is the nearest railhead.
Road: Abhaneri lies off NH-11 connectingë_Agraë_toë_Jaipur. You can drive to Abhaberi from these places or you could come by bus too. Buses are available to get to Abhaneri.
The Chand Baori can be found in Abhaneri, about 95 km from Jaipur. A convenient detour off the much-feted Golden Triangle route-Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, Chand Baori is a less sought after destination that is worth the effort to visit it.
Abhaneri can be best reached from Jaipur. There are no direct bus lines, thus you have two options to reach Abhaneri by public transportation.
The first one is to go to Sikandra (around 20 rupees) and from there take a jeep or taxi to Abhaneri (around 250 ruppes for return travel).
The second option is to go to Gular by bus and then walk around one hour to Abhaneri. You can also take a taxi for the whole ride from Jaipur but that might prove to be too costly.
This nondescript village in the Dausa district on the Jaipur-Agra Highway remains rather neglected though near the famous tourist track in Rajasthan. Tourists are yet to hear much about the sheer splendour of its deep stepwell and its exquisitely carved Harshat Mata temple.
As you get down from the car young village children gather around you, stare intently at the visitors and gape at the car. Though the historical structure is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), there is no entry fee yet to this stunning piece of history. And thankfully no vendors sell kitschy mementoes, souvenirs or idols and no guide mills around to overwhelm you. The site is open seven days a week except on major holidays.