One of the hidden attractions in the underbelly of Delhi is the Agrasen ki Baoli (also known as Ugrasen ki Baoli). Situated in the Hailey Road near Jantar Mantar in the bustling commercial center of Connaught Place, Agrasen ki Baoli takes the visitors completely by surprise. When first I visited this stepwell in the heart of the city I love, I was completely awestruck. It is like entering into a wardrobe and the door opens to a completely different world. In the case of Agrasen ki Baoli, you step not into Narnia but the city of Djinns with resident ghosts of its history.
Places of antiquities in Delhi are often associated with benevolent djinns and Agrasen ki Baoli is one such place. Not long back before the turn of this century, kids gathered here to swim to find respite from scorching summer, and lovers and unhappy people threw coins to have their wish fulfilled but perhaps with the water drying up in the step well, wish fulfillment and respite from heat also evanesced.
Although there are no definitive scripture about the history Agrasen ki Baoli, with some associating it to a Mahabharata period site built by King Agrasen, there is a general consensus that it was built somewhere around the period associated with rule of Tomar Rajputs and more specifically during the reign of King Anangpal. This baoli in Delhi was built by the merchant class rich Agrawal community which traces its origin to legendary king Agrasen could be one of the reasons why the name Ugrasen ki Baoli stuck with this step well.
As you enter the complex and take a few steps towards the deeper recesses of the stepwell, the cacophony and concrete walls of the bustling city center which surrounds this place vanish completely as by magic. The well is flanked on two sides arched niches whereas the mosque is located at the flight up stairs. This baoli is largely unknown among the masses and tourists which is thankfully why you would find this place a serene and peaceful place.
There are walkways near the walls at three levels which allow you to explore various alcoves and rooms. Once they would have been used by merchants and local residents but now they are gloomy dark and present ominous sight. What once would have been a place of activities and mirth is now private residence of pigeons and djinns may be. The presence of mosque also hints at the religious purposes of these alcoves which would have been used for ablutions before prayers.
Recently, I have increasingly encountered tourists who come to visit this baoli after seeing some movie scene and songs shot inside the complex. This one is a place where a few year back I could hardly find a soul or too, leave alone the Djinns but finally it appears that some hundreds year of solitude of Agrasen ki Baoli is finally at an end. Good or bad; only time can tell.
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