The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has left many tourism destinations reeling from its impact, as India’s historic stepwells have also not been spared by the disease, leaving the iconic architectural masterpiece wanting for tourists.
These historic sites were once used to store water — particularly in the arid states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, where they number in the thousands.
Typically, there would be a set of steps leading to a pond at the bottom.
But a stepwell was so much more than a mere reservoir. It was used as a place for social gatherings, where communities would congregate.
Though Covid-19 is now impacting international tourism, thankfully many of these stepwells are still intact and waiting to be appreciated when India reopens to the world.
Visitors can find them both in both big cities and distant villages. They differ in sizes and forms, some completely abandoned, others occupied by groups of awe-inspired tourists.
Ready for a tour? Here are some of the most fascinating examples of Indian stepwell architecture.
Located in India’s Abhaneri village — about 60 kilometers from Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan — it was built over 1,000 years ago, Visitors pass through an unpretentious entrance, where goats and dogs mingle, a stark contrast to the stunning scene that awaits. Made up of 3,500 steps covering 13 stories that descend 30 meters, this stepwell is a mind-blowing sight to behold, dizzying visitors with its grandeur.
It’s also mysteriously eerie, featuring greenish water at the bottom, a carved temple at the center and dark, inaccessible arcaded pavilions inside.
DC film fans might recognize it — the stepwell was immortalized by Christopher Nolan in his movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” It appears in the scene in which Bruce Wayne escapes from a subterranean prison.
Agrasen Ki Baoli
It’s easy to miss the grandiose Agrasen Ki Baoli. Located in the heart of New Delhi just a few blocks away from busy Connaught Place, this spectacular stepwell features 108 wide steps, which descend to the blackness of a now-empty covered water reservoir.
Considered haunted by some locals, its mystery is enhanced by the fact there are no records of who exactly commissioned the stepwell and when, with many speculating that the present-day structure was constructed around the 14th century by the Tughlagh dynasty.
A colony of bats adds to the spooky vibe.
Another remarkable stepwell in Delhi is Rajon Ki Baoli, in the city’s ancient Mehrauli neighborhood.