The Bollywood Baoli

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Well my blog title is quite unfair …. because perhaps one of the most gorgeous stepwells in India does not need Bollywood endorsement to become an important monument! But to be fair to Bollywood it is an ignored gem.Amir Khan’s PK and the recent Sridevi thriller MOM … both feature Ugrasen ki baoli on the big screen. Many of my Delhi dosts were not aware of this stepwell though it is right in the heart of New Delhi city… perhaps walkable distance from Janpath market.


A three domed mosque of small size with whale back roof ushers us in, the structure looks balanced though damaged from one side. We have to go 108 steps down to experience the grandeur of this baoli.

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The structure is made of rubble and dressed rock. At its base, the baoli is perhaps 15 meters wide and the north south length would be about 60 meters. According to its architectural style, experts have concluded that it was constructed in the late Tughlaq or Lodi era. One of my favourite photographers Raghu Rai has taken a fantastic shot here.

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Raghu Rai’s iconic image (1971)
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According to the British records … villages named Madhoganj, Jayasinghpura thrived in the vicinity of this baoli… but they cant be traced today. Some claim that it is one of the most haunted places in India. Well I visited the baoli at daybreak around 0545 hours and entered after the watchman reluctantly opened the door. There were pigeons adding some eerie feel … but it felt calm and not haunted.

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According to legends the baoli was built by Raja Agrasen, a Vaishya King … contemporary of lord krishna. According to Wikipedia Nattal Sahu a 12th century Jain trader prince may have rebuilt/ renovated the baoli based on an 1132 CE scripture. Right at the bottom of the shaft I looked up it felt a bit scary …. just the scale of it and a few bats hanging on the roof.

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Many baolis had gone off public memory and were discovered later and perhaps that leads to lot of conspiracy theories … but we should not malign the past … let us enjoy our architectural heritage … Another majestic baoli I have photographed is Abhanari Chand Baoli … that story some other day.

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