The abandoned waters of the Red Fort 'baoli'

A unique 'baoli' older than the fort itself where two staircases from two sides meet at a central pool, lies locked up and inaccessible even to visitors.
Red Fort: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, hides an unusual L shaped 'baoli' in its midst. Red Fort: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, hides an unusual L shaped 'baoli' in its midst.

The Red Fort, located along the western banks of the Yamuna, was built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan when he moved his capital to Delhi from Agra and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. Since then, the river has changed course but it’s proximity to the fort ensured that there was abundant water supply as well as protection for the city. A world heritage site, it was previously known as ‘Qila-e-Mubarak’ or the Blessed Fort. 

It is said that you could fish from the windows of Red Fort, though the river changed course sometime after 1857 (Source: Wikipedia)

The fort which is shaped like an octagon has massive red sandstone walls that run to 2.4 km, and is flanked by a moat on the western side that protected it from raiding invaders and external attacks. Moats on 3 sides and the Yamuna at the fourth, provided the much needed defence for the royal family. Tucked away inside is a magnificent 'baoli' or stepwell believed to be older than the fort and surprisingly in good condition. Unfortunately it remains locked to the public. 

This baoli is a unique structure. It has stairs from two sides, unlike the usual single staircases leading down to the bottom water tank. The two sets of stairs at 90 degrees, mirror each other, giving the 'baoli' an 'L' shape. At the deep end where the stairs meet, is an octagonal tank, which is connected to the adjoining covered well, at the southern end. 

Take a peek at this conveniently 'forgotten' structure inside the magnificent Red Fort. 

 

 

A flight of steps made of sandstone lead down to the cool water tank. Arched niches in the walls and rooms for visitors are now covered with bricks and grills.

An arched entrance, unique to Mughal architecture, opens into the water pool and serves the functional needs in an artistic, pleasing manner.

The circular water pool enclosed in a square tank of 6.1 m side, shimmers and reflects in the morning sun. Water from here was used to irrigate the expansive, beautiful lawns.

The second staircase that leads into the water tank giving this 'baoli' its distinct 'L' shape, is falling prey to time and disuse.

The British filled up many of the arched-entrances with bricks, grilles and padlocks, and converted the chambers into jail rooms. Officers P.K. Sehgal, Shah Nawaz Khan and G.S. Dhillon of the Indian National Army were imprisoned here during the Freedom struggle. 

A peek from above into the gorgeous arched baoli connected to an octagonal shaft or well 14m deep. This feeds the circular water tank.Arches frame the beautiful baoli, a place that is an intricate and harmonious fusion of form and function.

 

 

 

How to reach

Red Fort 'baoli' is inside the Red Fort area itself, and may be reached by Metro, with the nearest stop being Chandni Chowk (yellow line), at a walking distance of barely 1 km. Delhi is connected by rail, air and road to all parts of the country.

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