It took me three years to complete this project. Some may call me an eccentric but I really do not care for me it’s more important to have a complete story than to have a half cooked and half imagined blog. For the last three years, I have been on a quest to locate all the visible Baoli’s of Delhi. I did my initial research and could only find a mention of a couple of them from multiple sources. None had a total compilation of all the Baoli’s of Delhi. So it became my quest to have a comprehensive list along with all the necessary details and last but not the least their exact location on the map so that anyone can easily locate them on their smartphone maps.
How Many Baolis In Delhi Did You Say?
Not one not two but there are fourteen Baolis of Delhi that you can still locate visually. If you are still trying to comprehend what I just said, then let me repeat that there are 14 Baolis in Delhi. Spread all around the city of Delhi you will find most of these either near or inside a fort complex while some are absolutely far away from any nearby historical landmark.
What Is a Baoli?
Baoli is basically a stepwell which you will find all across the country. Around the Northern Plains of India, these stepwell are aesthetically and architecturally also significant other than providing for the basic necessity for drinking water. Baolis around Delhi is mostly found inside a fort since that is where one would need the greatest need for drinking water keeping the fort safe from invaders by ensuring a steady supply of drinkable water in the event of a siege.
Most of these are build deep so that the availability of water is year round even during the dry summer months. While some just have basic slabs and boulders of stone others can be an architectural masterpiece. In the end, its sole purpose was the supply of drinkable water for the population.
The Baolis of Delhi
There are 14 Baolis which you can trace around the city of Delhi. The order of the list is according to accessibility with a vehicle. It’s not possible to see all Baolis in a single day especially on weekdays as the road traffic and the total distance would consume a lot of commute time. However, it’s very much possible to see all of them on a Sunday when the traffic on road is at its minimum but still it will take a full hectic day in order to achieve this feat.
The list is as follows: –
1. Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli
2. Rajon Ki Baoli
3. Gandhak Ki Baoli
4. Qutub Sahib Ki Baoli
5. Anangtal Baoli
6. Wazirpur Monument Complex Baoli
7. Hazrat Nizamuddin Ki Baoli
8. Arab Ki Sarai Baoli
9. Purana Quila Baoli
10. Agrasen Ki Baoli
11. Feroz Shah Kotla Fort Baoli
12. Red Fort Baoli
13. Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli
14. Dwarka Baoli
Location of The Baolis On Map
Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli
Constructed around 14th century this Baoli is located inside Tughlaqabad Fort. From the main entrance take to your left until you reach the reservoir built into the fort. As the history goes this fort was never fully completed and the sole purpose of the Baoli to be the main source of drinking water was never utilized. This fort was abandoned just 15 years after its initial construction.
Rajon Ki Baoli
This is located inside Mehrauli Archaeological Park and can be accessed from two sides. You can buy a ticket to Qutub Minar complex and walk all the way to the Baoli or you can completely bypass this by approaching it from the backside of the park through the village located at the back. The locals have a separate unrestricted entry through which you can easily enter. You can park your car nearby and just walk for five minutes to reach this spot.
It is believed that this Baoli was constructed during the reign of Sikander Lodi (1498-1517 AD) by Daulat Khan. As the name suggests the Baoli was mainly constructed for the masons who had settled in the villages around this place.
Structurally the Baoli has four levels and a well at the bottom where you can hardly see any sign of water due to the drastic fall in the water table. As per some records during high season the water inside the Baoli used to rise as high as the third floor. There are several small arched rooms around each level.
Gandhak Ki Baoli
Gandhak means sulfur which implies that the water in this Baoli contained sulfur. This is located outside the walls of Mehrauli Archaeological Park (back side) and very near to Rajon Ki Baoli. When I had visited the Baoli it had some water but since it’s a stagnant water thus the water was rotten and smelt worse than sulfur. Technically the water source at the moment do not have any sulfur content now but the name has stuck on.
Structurally the Baoli has five layers and quite simple in design not as ornate as Rajon Ki Baoli. The locals still very much use this Baoli for bathing purpose.
Qutub Sahib Ki Baoli
This Baoli is also located around Mehrauli and can also be walked while covering Rajon Ki Baoli & Gandhak Ki Baoli. If you ask the locals for Qutub Sahib Ki Baoli then they would surely won’t be able to tell you the direction however if you ask them the direction to Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki then all would point you the direction. Qutub Sahib Ki Baoli is located right next to the Dargah. The Dargah itself is very famous thus do not forget to visit the Dargah while trying to reach the Baoli. Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar was the spiritual successor of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
The Baoli is at present not being used as a water source and looks more like a dump yard. From the Dargah, you will get the top view of the Baoli and feel sad to see its current state. You can access the lower floors of the Baoli from the Dargah itself. The Baoli walls are believed to have been constructed around 1846.
This is one the trickiest to locate and took me three years (three attempts) to finally assume the location of the Baoli. In reality, there is no visible Baoli and exists only in the records. As per record, there used to be a Baoli located behind Devi Yogmaya Temple which is also located in Mehrauli. To visit the presumed location of the Baoli one must take the left lane before the temple and walk all the way to the back until they reach a dead end filled with garbage and a large wall. Walking past a heap of human waste and urine you will see a rectangular stone structure with some stone dome type structures at one end. It is assumed that this is what remains of the Anangtal Baoli. Centuries of sediment and garbage has completely blocked the Baoli to its brink. Even the locals are not much aware of its historical significance.
As per some records, this is the oldest Baoli in Delhi.
Wazirpur Monument Complex Baoli
Finally, we move away from Mehrauli and go towards R K Puram near Munirka Metro Station. This Baoli is located inside the Wazirpur Monument Complex. The structure is a simple two-storied one with a deep well on one side. Water still can be seen from the top deep inside the well. This location is more famous for its five tombs or gumbads built around (1451 – 1526 AD) during Lodi era. Not many records are officially present as to who these five belong to and who all are buried inside these.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Ki Baoli
This location does not need a direction as the Nizamuddin Dargah is a very popular landmark in Delhi and the Baoli is located right at the center of it. As per history, this Baoli was built by Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya around 1321-22 AD. Being a Sufi saint the building of the Baoli was like a public service for him and he wanted to get it completed as soon as possible. During the same time, the ruler of Delhi Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq was also building his new capital at Tughlakabad so he wanted all the masons and laborers to stop all the work that they were doing and only work on building Tughlakabad.
To bypass the dictate by the ruler the workers used to work at night with the help of oil lamps on knowing this Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq stopped the supply of oil to the saint so that the workers would concentrate only on building the new capital.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya then with his mystic powers converted water to oil and continued the work at night. The saint also cursed the emperor that his planned kingdom will never take shape and will remain in ruins occupied by the locals “Ya rahe gujar ya rahe usar”.
This Baoli is at the center of the Dargah thus visit both the Dargah as well as the Baoli. The water of the Baoli is supposed to be blessed thus people revere the whole structure.
Arab Ki Sarai Baoli
Hamida Banu Begum who was the wife (chief consort) of emperor Humayun of the Mughal Dynasty built Arab Sarai in the year 1560 to accommodate the 300 Arab artisans who had come along with her from Mecca to build the tomb of Humayun.
These 300 people were given a place to settle and for them, a Baoli was built known as the Arab Ki Sarai Baoli. Over the centuries this portion of the Humayun Tomb Complex was completely lost and while the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb was taken up recently the places around the complex was also taken up for restoration and beautification. During the restoration work of Arab Ki Sarai, the Baoli was discovered buried under rubbles. After removing the rubbles, the Baoli can now be seen from the Arab Ki Sarai section of the tomb complex. Water now has started accumulating after the clearing of silt and sediments.
Purana Quila Baoli
Every fort needed a functioning constant source of drinking water and the Baoli at Purana Quila was probably built for this. Its located very near to the main entrance between the Qila I Kuhna Mosque and pavilion of Sher Mandal. This Baoli does not have floors but rather just steep 89 steps leading to the water source. At present only some dirty stagnant water is present at the very base which most probably would have accumulated from the recent bout of rain.
Agrasen Ki Baoli
Thanks to some recent Bollywood movies featuring this as one of their outdoor locations has really made this a must go destination while any trip to Delhi. Unfortunately, this also means that the once quiet place has now become overcrowded with tourist and college couples who find this place to be ideal to spend the whole day. So your best bet would be to reach early in the morning to find this place empty and best to enjoy the architecture.
As the name suggests the Baoli is believed to have been built by King Agrasen. Architecture wise this stepwell features 108 steps located on three floors. The mention of its existence can be traced back to around 1132.
Feroz Shah Kotla Fort Baoli
As the name suggests this Baoli is present right inside the Feroz Shah Kotla Fort and can be easily spotted with its distinctive circular structure. This Baoli has a steady presence of water and large pipes which are connected to electrical pumps are used to draw water for gardening around the fort. Unfortunately, the gates are locked since there were instances of suicides and accidental drownings. To get the best view of the Baoli just climb one of the decapitated structures located near the Baoli.
Feroz Shah Tughlaq had built this part of the city around 14th century thus the age of the Baoli can also be associated with this. This would have been the chief source of water for the entire fort.
Red Fort Baoli
This fort is the easiest of all location was, unfortunately, the trickiest to get photographed since my previous two attempts had failed as I wanted to get it photographed during either Republic Day or Independence Day and the fort remains closed during this phase for security reasons.
Somehow I managed to sneak in a visit beginning of this year and finally I could see the Baoli for myself.
Red Fort being near to the river source meant easy access to water, however, there was always a need for Baoli within the fort compound for a safe supply of drinkable water. However, as per some records, the age of the Baoli is much older than the fort considering the fact that this place has been built over and over again.
The location of the fort is to the extreme left after you enter the main gate, this portion of the fort is not much visited as the main attraction of the fort remains towards the front of the main gate.
This Baoli was also lost in time and became a garbage dump as the fort after independence was used by CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) and as late as 2002 the fort was finally handed over to ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), during a regular clean-up operation by ASI the structure was revealed and after clean up the Baoli finally saw the rays of sun again. Unlike other Baolis this has two staircases perpendicular to each other leading to the water source making it a unique.
Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli
This fort was built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1354, this Baoli also has significance in terms of freedom fighters as this was also the only source of water for the British soldiers surrounded by the revolting soldiers of 1857. As with the other Baolis over the decades dumping garbage and overgrown vegetation completely destroyed the existence of the Baoli.
The Baoli was restored recently by ASI clearing of its debris and completely cleaned up. Rainwater harvesting was used to reactivate the water storage capability of the Baoli. Water though minimum can now be seen.
Once this locality was a village in the outskirts of Delhi, it’s only during the expansion of the 1980’s saw this part of Delhi being converted into residential complexes. The Baoli at Dwarka was completely lost in history as like other Baolis these got filled up with garbage over time and only as late as 2011 was rediscovered lying in a barren plot of land right next to a residential complex and a school. In fact, by mistake, I tried to enter the Baoli through the residential complex only to realize that a high barbed wire fence separates the location. It can be easily accessed through the field from the main road.
This Baoli is also set to be from the Lodi era and was located in a village called Loharehri. This is relatively a small Baoli with simple architecture not as grand as its larger cousin relatively a small Baoli with simple architecture not as grand as its larger cousins.
Hope you have enjoyed my trip across Delhi to locate all the existing Baolis. This is a never-ending quest and in the future, a new Baoli gets discovered then I will update this blog post. Thanks for visiting my blog.