It was a chilly December morning. It was 25th December and an official holiday as it was Christmas. We were in Jaipur at that time. My family members were long thinking of going out for a day’s outing. Since we were in Jaipur, we had multitude of options like going to any of the parks or forts. TD thought that there cannot be a better time to fulfil a long awaited desire. I suggested visiting a step-well called Chand Baori. The first reactions from my family members were not very encouraging but I somehow convinced them. This place had fascinated me for quite a long time ever since I viewed it in a Bollywood movie titled ‘Paheli’ in 2005 and read about Chand Baori later in some articles.
The distance was just around 100 kms and it was apt for a day’s outing. We quickly got some food packed (Tip: There are not many options to eat on the suggested route and hence it is advised to carry your own food) and left Jaipur around 10:30 am. We hopped on to NH21 (Jaipur-Agra national highway) around 11 am. We continued on NH21 for next 2 hours crossing Dausa around 12:30 pm. From Sikandra junction, we took a left turn towards Abhaneri on state highway 25 and then took a right on Moradi-Abhaneri road. We kept driving through the villages and barren fields until we saw what is known as Harshad Mata Temple. We parked our car immediately as we crossed the temple around 1 pm. The temple and Chand baori are almost next to each other.
Chand Baori is now under ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). However, there is no entrance fee for Indians. The place looked different from outside compared to what I had seen in the movie ‘Paheli’. The scene in the movie showed no boundary walls surrounding the step-well. May be the wall was built later on when ASI took over in 2010.
The step-well was built in 9th century by King Chand Raja (around 800 AD) which means it is around 1200 years old and has survived well to be still in good shape. The step well looks like a square from the top with stairs going down from 3 sides giving it a maze like look. It is sure to daze you as the sunlight falling on the steps turns the maze black and white creating a weird illusion. After descending for about 20 meters the steps meet green puddle of water. Guess this would have been the start of rain water harvesting in the ancient times. The 4th side looks like a mini 5 storey fort with nicely carved pillars, couple of balconies and galleries at each level. Unfortunately the area is barricaded (may be because the structure looked a bit dilapidated) and visitors are not allowed to descend from the stairs and hence it is not possible to experience the mini fort from inside. But it is told that the temperature in the mini fort remains 5-6 degrees lower than outside during daytime. Some even believe that the place also had other purposes like sound wave generation and resonation – kind of cryptic!
We spent around an hour staring at the sheer beauty of this place and experiencing it. As we left the place, many questions cropped up in my mind which were left unanswered – How they would have built this 1200 years back? What technology they would have used to bring in so much stone? What tools the then architects would have used to put the imagination on paper? How could they do it with so much precision and how did they know where exactly to dig and how deep, to find water in middle of a desert?
The exquisite detailing of the 3500 steps, 13 stories under the earth is just mind-boggling. It would have definitely required a superhuman effort to construct this. I can bet on my bottom dollar that no such other step-well exists in this world. It is truly an awe-inspiring ancient civil engineering marvel.
Truly a heritage India must preserve!