Every city has its own set of haunted places. Some genuine and some fabricated by tales which have being carried forward through generations. I have always been attracted to haunted stories and this makes me wonder how I missed out on this place despite being a Delhi dweller for so long. In my mission to know Delhi better, I set out to explore this location and check its vibes on my ‘eerie-o-meter’.
Meaning of Baoli
Baoli or Bawdi, is also referred as Baori , Bavadi in Rajasthani; Vav in Gujrati; Kalyani, Pushkarani in Kannada. All these names refer to ‘stepwells’ which may have originated for water preservation to cope with droughts or seasonal water supply fluctuations. They are artificially constructed reservoirs made of blocks of stone (without mortar) with stairs which lead down to the water. These multi-level open pavilions have chambers and galleries around them with elaborate ornamentation which, in those early days served as places for social / religious gatherings as it gave respite from heat at the base. The earliest form dates back to Dholavira and Mohenjo-daro sites of Indus Valley civilization.
History of Agrasen Ki Baoli
Agrasen ki Baoli also called Ugrasen ki Baoli is the oldest existing ‘step-well’ in Delhi. Although there are no historical records but it is believed to be built by King Agrasen or Ugrasen during Mahabharata times. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agarwal community who were said to be descendants of King Agrasen and reconstructed during the Tuglaq dynasty.
In search of ghosts
I consciously avoided investigating this place on the internet prior to the visit. With an intent to get the feel of the place without any pre conceived notions, I fed the destination on my GPS and drove down. It lead me to the busy Connaught Place area in central Delhi, which is a hub for many private and government organizations. My desired location was inside a narrow lane of Hailey’s road, so had to park outside and walk down to the premises. A board by The Archaeological Survey of India stating that it was a protected monument welcomed me. Ah! So the ghosts were protected!
Admission was free and I entered through the iron gate of the arched entrance expecting to step into a place with a sinister appearance but was pleasantly surprised. The view inside was stunning
A 60m long and 15m wide rectangular structure constructed of uneven red sandstone units in 3 levels, each lined with arched niches on both sides and a flight of 108 steps. Did I miss telling … it was swarming with people, ‘love birds’ to be precise. I am not sure whether the approaching Valentine Day was the reason but nevertheless Who romances in a haunted place?
I would say my first vibe after entering was far from being ominous. Haunted places are supposed to be cold, dark, deserted and spooky and this place was none. There were happy people in every nook and corner and it was a difficult task to even click pictures without intruding their privacy.
I smiled to myself and descended the stairs to explore further. As I stepped under the roof, the darkness and the stench of the pigeon droppings distracted me. Not only the birds (pigeons and love birds) flocked here but it was a favorite abode for bats too. They clattered and squeaked all around creating the ambiance of a haunted place. At the bottom of the stairs, was the circular well 8m in diameter covered by iron grills at the top and connected to the Baoli through a shaft. The bed of the reservoir was clearly visible as there was no water in it. It’s said that in the past when water rose in the well, it used to fill the Baoli from the bottom to the top level.
After taking a few droppings on the head, I decided to move out and walk up to the side alleys in the upper floors. The top 2 levels each had two layers of recessed arches. The upper arches were ornamental while the lower ones were with deeper recesses which must have been sitting areas in the past where people would relax and enjoy during gatherings. As I walked past them, I again bumped into couples instead of ghosts. At each level I found closed gates with few visible stairs behind them. These must have led to rooms and passageways inside the Baoli.
I seated myself at the top of the stairs, waited for the crowd to thin down in order to capture a good image of the entire structure. This seemed like a long wait, so I finally decided to browse the internet in look out for the haunted stories of this place. Legends said that the Baoli always had dark waters and people heard voices from the water luring them to dive and give up their life. There was one accounted suicide death in this location and beyond that I could not find anything worth a logical explanation. This place might be frightening when vacant or during the night, but don’t all desolate locations transmit the same feel? There is no way I can validate this as the monument door closes at 6pm.
Read more about history and mythological stories of Pushkar in Rajsthan. http://www.fizznfuzz.com/pushkar-rajasthan/
Being a dry place, the possibilities of suicides by jumping into the water are ruled out in the current times. The only deaths that could occur would be due to the recent trends of selfie photography. I found the guard at the site constantly on his toes, yelling at people who were at the edge of alleys in the upper levels, trying to take a selfie with God knows what 🙂
I guess this location had gained popularity after being glorified in many of our Bollywood movies, the latest being PK released in 2014.The once abandoned monument had suddenly converted to a tourist spot.
It seemed like a time lapsed sequence as I sat and watched the Baoli with the multi storied buildings in the backdrop. A structure that stood the test of time from the Mahabharata days, witnessed the changing world around it; from the bow and arrow to the era of artificial intelligence. Located amidst modernity, it had several untold stories echoing within it.
On my way out, I found a mosque which most people were not keen in seeing. A triple arched structure, one of which had collapsed along with the portions of the ‘whale back’ roof and a closed gate which led to the inside of the mosque. It’s a piece of architecture which clearly depicted the influence of Mughal Sultanate on this monument.
Agrasen ki baoli , failed on my ‘eerie-o-meter’ but it certainly is a place to be visited if not for the love of history or it’s architecture but just to know Delhi a little better.
“We need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts”– Stephen King
Location: Hailey Road, Near Diwanchand Imaging Centre, K G Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Timings: Open 7 days a week from 7am to 6pm
Nearest Metro Station: Barakhambha Road and Janpath