The diversity in the architecture that can be found in India is one of the aspects that makes it a fascinating country to visit.
Not only are the architectural styles distinct, at times within the same region, but the abundance in the variety of monuments and buildings that have existed for hundreds of years has made the history and heritage of this country rich and captivating.
Rajasthan is a state that has long been on the bucket list of many-a-travellers that come to explore India. Upon entering the boundaries of this desert state, the first thing one notices is that the barren and often dull landscape beautifully juxtaposes with the bright colours of women’s clothing and men’s traditional headgear.
The architecture of Rajasthan is royal to its very core in every sense possible. Ancient forts can be found dotted around on hilltops, palaces built in the middle of lakes, intricate carvings on doors and walls, every city brings forth its own unique character that makes it special and a pleasure to discover.
One of the most riveting destinations in Rajasthan is Chand Baori in Abhaneri. Stepwells such as this can be found all over India as they were the primary method of storing water in the olden times.
Recently, my family had the opportunity of visiting the astounding Rani-ki-vav in Gujarat and many people are unaware that the national capital, New Delhi, also has a few stepwells including one at the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
Chand Baori was built by King Chanda sometime between 800-900 CE and is one of the oldest and prettiest stepwells in India. It is dedicated to Harshat Mata, the Goddess of Joy and Happiness, who is dutifully followed by many in this region. An equally remarkable temple in the name of the Goddess is situated next to the Baori.
Stepwells, besides serving the purpose of conserving water, were also places for people to mingle and interact on a regular basis. While the Royals had a separate shaded area at Chand Baori, this architectural marvel was a refuge for the commons from the blistering sun as the temperature at the bottom of the 3500 steps is 5-6 degrees cooler.
The well itself goes another 100 feet below the ground while the steep fall from the top can be at times daunting, especially for those with a fear of heights.
Getting to Abhaneri is a straight enough route from New Delhi and takes roughly three and a half hours if you leave early in the morning. Even once the road turns away from the highway, it is smooth driving with hardly any traffic all the way through.
The site opens every day from 9:00 am and closes at 6:00 pm. Its location is quite unassuming and petite and while busloads of tourists arrive during the day, there is never a real rush to the place.
The Baori is both a delight for photographers as it is a nightmare.
The geometric shapes, that give it an exclusive appeal, play hide and seek with sunlight throughout the day giving visitors a different view depending on the time of the day they visit.
However, the site is cordoned off right at the top which means that unless someone has a wide-angle lens (I used the GoPro), it is difficult to capture the stepwell in its entirety.
Moreover, not being allowed closer to the structure takes away half the excitement of visiting the Baori and left me in two minds whether the entire detour was worth it in the end.
Chand Baori is a well-managed property and photography is free but one has to pay a nominal price of Rs 25 if you want to make a video. How they monitor that since most cameras and phones have video making capabilities is beyond me.
Surrounding the stepwell, in passageways, stones with carvings, engravings, and sculptures have been neatly placed for everyone to see. Guides are available outside the main entrance who charge Rs 100 and give you a little bit of the history along with information on the region.
If you have time on your hands, it’s quite possible to link a visit to Chan Baori with a drive to the most haunted place in India, Bhangarh Fort, which is only an hour away.
Other notable locations of interest around Abhaneri include Sariska National Park, Tijara with a beautiful Fort Palace where we decided to spend the night and a famous Jain Temple, and of course the “Pink City” Jaipur is also a little over an hour away.
If architecture is of interest and you are intrigued by the beauty of these gigantic manmade creations that have stood the test of time, make sure you head on to Chand Baori and experience one of the wonders of this world.