Step back in time into 'Ugrasen ki baoli'

The old and the new: Ugrasen 'baoli' against the backdrop of Delhi.
The old and the new: Ugrasen 'baoli' against the backdrop of Delhi.

Tucked away in a quiet by-lane of Delhi's busiest commercial centre Connaught Place, Agrasen or Ugrasen ki baoli waits imperially for a lost traveller to reach its steps.Called 'Ujar Saini Bauli' according to an archived colonial map dated 1893, this testimony of superb architectural craftsmanship and water security now stands amidst the tall, new fangled high rise buildings of Delhi but is, sadly, a tad too easy to miss. 

The plan of the baoli (Source: ASI)

 

Legend has it that Maharaj Ugrasen/Agrasen, forefather of the Agrawal community, built this baoli or stepwell in the Mahabharat era primarily to meet the water needs of the area. The drawing plan of the monument shows a well in the north depicted as the circle, and a square domed structure that lies between the well shaft and the long flight of steps. These steps are further flanked by thick stone walls with two series of arched niches. At the opposite end of the circular well is a mosque that lies in ruins. The 'baoli' though completely waterless today, was not always so. A beautiful picture, by renowed photographer Raghu Rai, titled ‘Diving into Ugrasen Ki Baoli, a 14th century monument,’ shows how this baoli was brimming with water, till as late as 1971.

Walk into this picturesque, protected monument and step back in time to a place where people shared a common space and built a deeper connect with nature and each other--Ugrasen ki baoli in pictures.

The 'baoli' has more than 100 steps and descends down 4 levels, where the stairways section tapers as one descends. As you reach the bottom-most step, there is no water to be seen but conservation work is ongoing.

 

Thick stone walls protect the 'baoli' steps, showcasing arched areas that were resting places for weary travelers. A series of carved chambers and passages run through these side walls, some of which can be accessed through the descending stairways.

Crumbling stones at the top--are these remnants of a pulley system for drawing water from the 'baoli'?

The central square structure, which is covered by a dome that connects the steps to the well shaft is now home to what sounds like a zillion squeaking bats.

The huge open well built with rubble and dressed stone is where the water was stored. About 7-8 m in diameter, it is connected to the 'baoli' through a shaft, from which water flowed onto its steps. The level of the water rose along the stairway depending upon the amount of water in the well.The red sand stone architectural features of the 60 m long and 15 m wide baoli are indicative of the Tughlaq and Lodi era.

On the west side of the baoli is a dilapidated mosque on a solid high platform with 3 arched entrances and an underground hallway. The ruins serve a different purpose today!

The roof is shaped like a 'whale back' and the sandstone pillars are carved with 'chaitya' motifs, while the spandrel (space between the arches) is decorated with a stucco (exterior finish) medallion. A huge neem tree conceals the broken roof area, and the monument is cordoned off from the road running right next to it.

 

 

 

How to reach

'Ugrasen ki baoli' is at Hailey Road near KG Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi. The Metro is an easy way to reach it with the nearest metro Station being Barakhamba, which is at a walking distance of barely 1 km. Delhi is connected by rail, air and road to all parts of the country.