Home > Delhi, Delhi Architecture, Delhi Baoli, Delhi History, General > Baolis (Step Wells) of Delhi

Baolis (Step Wells) of Delhi

Baolis (Step Wells) of Delhi

A compilation of Baolis (Step Wells) of Delhi

Monsoon in India has a very short duration and moreover it has always been very unpredictable, this gave rise to the necessity of water conservation. Over the centuries Indians have constructed artificial lakes and dug wells to hold the water supplied by the monsoon rains.

Baolis of Delhi. Top Left: Rajon ki Baoli, Top Centre: Gandhak ki Baoli, Top Right: Loharheri Baoli, Bottom Right: Hindu rao hospital Baoli, Bottom Centre: Purana Kella Baoli, Bottom Right: Tuglagabad Baoli

Baolis of Delhi. Top Left: Rajon ki Baoli, Top Centre: Gandhak ki Baoli, Top Right: Loharheri Baoli, Bottom Left: Hindu rao hospital Baoli, Bottom Centre: Purana Kella Baoli, Bottom Right: Tuglagabad Baoli

It is often said that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and the necessity of conservation of water, for the dry season, led to the construction of step wells. Stepwells are wells or ponds in which the water is reached by descending a set of steps. They are often multi storied in structure and are found in Western India and in the other more arid regions of South Asia, extending into Pakistan.

A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, is to make it easier for people to reach the ground water and to maintain and manage the well.

Apart from providing water Stepwells also served as a place for social gatherings and religious ceremonies. Usually, women were more associated with these wells because they were the ones who collected the water. Also, it was they who prayed and offered gifts to the goddess of the well for her blessings. This led to the building of some significant ornamental and architectural features, often associated with dwellings and in urban areas. It also ensured their survival as monuments.

Baolis (Stepwells) of Delhi. L: Rajon ki Baoli, C: Baoli at Nizamuddin Dargah, R: Ugrasen ki Baoli

Baolis (Stepwells) of Delhi. L: Rajon ki Baoli, C: Baoli at Nizamuddin Dargah, R: Ugrasen ki Baoli

Stepwells usually consist of two parts: a vertical shaft from which water is drawn and the surrounding inclined subterranean passageways, chambers and steps which provide access to the well. The galleries and chambers surrounding these wells were often carved profusely with elaborate detail and became cool, quiet retreats during the hot summers.

Generally the step wells are U – shaped but there are always exceptions in architecture and L – shaped or octagonal step well are not uncommon. Delhi, although located on the banks of Yamuna River, suffers from long period of severe water shortage. No wonder Delhi houses a number of step wells, which the Delhiwalls call Baoli.

1. Rajon ki Baoli

Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Rajon Ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Mehrauli, Delhi

Rajon Ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Mehrauli, Delhi

Rajon ki Baoli, one of the most ornate step wells of Delhi is located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Built by Dalut Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi (1489 – 1517) the Rajon Ki Baoli descended down to four levels. The baoli served as a residence of the mason during the early 20th century and hence the name Rajon Ki Baoli.

Rajon Ki Baoli follows the conventional U – shaped pattern and as one slowly descends the broad staircase the grandeur of the spectacular structure unfolds, before his eyes.

Sadly the water in the Rajon Ki Baoli has long dried up and has come to be known as the sukha baoli or the dray well. Even during the height of monsoon one can only find traces of black greasy water at the very bottom.

Small narrow staircases leads to the terrace of Rajon Ki Baoli, housing a small but elegant mosque. In front of the mosque stands a domed pavilion supported by 12 pillars. The dome is crowned with a floral motif finial and only traces of blue ceramic tiles can be seen to this day.

Apart from the grand staircase descending to the water level, there are narrow staircase leads on to the subterranean levels of Rajon Ki Baoli. Read more…

2. Gandhak ki Baoli

Mehruli Archaeological Park

Gandhak ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Mehrauli, Delhi

Gandhak ki Baoli, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Mehrauli, Delhi

Like Rajon ki Baoli Gandhak Ki Baoli is also part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, It is best visited from the Adam Khan’s Tomb located near the Mehrauli Bus Terminal.

Gandhak Ki Baoli was constructed during the reign of Sultan Samshuddin Iltutmish (1296 – 1316) and legend has it during a visit to Sufi saint Hazarat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki Iltutmish found that the Mehurali area suffered from acute water shortage and the saint was not able to have regular baths.

This led to the construction of the step well, which came to be known as Gandhak Ki Baoli. The name originated for the presence of sulpher (gandhak) in the water, and the sulpher rich water is said to be beneficial for several skin diseases.

Made of rubble masonry the Gandhak ki Baoli is devoid of ornamentation and descends to five stages bellow the ground level. Unlike the Rajon ki Baoli the Gandhak ki Baoli contains water and during monsoon the water reaches only a few feet below the ground level.

The sulpher rich water is used as a swimming pool for the local boys and the extended platforms often acts as diving boards for the more adventurous kids. Elders are often seen gossiping on the steps and sipping on cups of tea. They frequently warns the boys for their over enthusiastic and dangerous stunts. Read more…

3. Ugrasen ki Baoli

Hailey Lane, behind Banga Bhawan

Ugrasen ki Baoli, Hailey Lane, Delhi

Ugrasen ki Baoli, Hailey Lane, Delhi

Ugrasen ki Baoli (also called Agrasen ki Baoli) is located on Haley Lane behind Banga Bhawan.

Architectural features suggest that the baoli (or stepwell) was built during the Lodhi or Tughlaq Period, but according to legend it was built by the legendary king Raja Ugrasen, the progenitor of Agarwal community.

It measures 60m X 15m and has the well on the northern end. On the south – west corner is a small mosque.

The typical U – shaped Baoli (stepwell) is one of the largest and most ornate baolis in the whole of Delhi. A long flight of stairs, flanked by thick walls with arched niches, leads to the water, but sadly it remains dry for most part of the year.

The stark stonewalls of the Ugrasen ki Baoli are striking, and contains arched alcoves and chambers proving a shady retreat to tired travellers. In recent years the Ugrasen ki Baoli has become a popular tourist spot for both locals and tourists. Read more…

4. Nizamuddin Dargah Baoli

Nizamuddin Dargah

Baoli at Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi

Baoli at Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi

The large Baoli is located next to the northern entrance of the Nizamuddin Dargah. Like the Gandhak ki Baoli it contains water. It is a favourite to local kids, for displaying their stunt diving skills.

The water is deep green in colour and said to posses miraculous healing powers and according to legend have been blessed by Hazarat Nizamuddin himself.

The Nizamuddin Baoli was constructed in in 1321 – 22, when Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq (ruled AD 1320-25) was constructing the massive citadel of Tughlaqabad Fort. The masons and laborers working at the Tuglaqabad Fort decided to work for the Nizamuddin Baoli at night. This was simply out of respect  and adoration for they saint, they worked in the night with oil lamp as source of light.

On hearing this the Sultan, who wanted the masons and laborers to work only for him, was furious and banned the sale of oil. But Seikh Nizamuddin blessed the water of the baoli and ordered the masons and laborers to light the lamps with the water. Miraculously the lamps lit up and work continued in the baoli.

Nizumuddin Baoli is probably the largest Baoli in Delhi and does not follow the traditional U – shaped plan and contains no subterranean passageway. it is feed by seven underground springs.

5. Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli

Tughlaqabad Fort

Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, Tughlaqabad, Delhi

Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, Tughlaqabad, Delhi

Largest of all the forts of Delhi Tughlaqabad Fort, is often considered as one of the most uncompromisingly militaristic ruins in the whole of India.

Located on the left of the entrance, the Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, can be reached by a well defined path with the massive walls of the fort towering on your left.

Built of rubble masonry, the Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli was constructed in the 14th century.

Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, does not follow the traditional stepwell form, but the water of the well is directly reached by a flight off stairs. The narrow staircase is divided into three parts, which runs along the three inner walls of the rectangular Baoli.

6. Purana Quila (Old Fort) Baoli

Purana Quila (Old Fort)

Purana Quila Baoli, Purana Quila (Old Fort), Delhi

Purana Quila Baoli, Purana Quila (Old Fort), Delhi

Although Purana Quila or the Old Fort was raised by Sher Shah Suri, but archaeological finding suggests that the site dates back far beyond the days of Christ!!

The Pura Quila Baoli is located in between the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque and the pavilion of Sher Mandal.

The narrow U – shaped Baoli (stepwell) is fenced and kept under lock and key. The only option to photograph it is through the grill gate.

A narrow flight of 89 steps, separated by 8 landings and going down to a depth of 22 meters. The structure was built to keep the water covered and to minimize its evaporation. It was probably the only source of drinking water to the fort of Purna Quila was in function.

7. Feroz Shah Kotla Baoli

Feroz Shah Kotla

Feroz Shah Kotla Baoli, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi

Feroz Shah Kotla Baoli, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi

Feroz Shah Kotla or Ferozabad is the fifth citadel of Delhi built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 14 th century AD.

The Feroz Shah Kotla Baoli is the only circular Baoli or stepwell in the whole of Delhi.

It is located just in front of the Pyramidal Structure with the Ashokan Pillar at the top.

The baoli is fenced and kept under lock and key. It is best photographed from the different stages of the Pyramidal Structure leading up to the Ashokan Pillar. Each level gives a different view of the baoli or stepwell, however details of the interior are not visible.

The circular baoli at Feroz Shah Kotla consists of concentric circle, each smaller than the outer one, leading to the water level at the centre.

8. Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli

Hindu Rao Hospital Complex

Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli, Hindu Rao Hospital Complex, Delhi

Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli, Hindu Rao Hospital Complex, Delhi

Hospital compounds are the last possible location for a historical monument, but Delhi with its innumerable number of scattered monuments does have monuments inside hospital complexes.

The Hindu Rao Hospital complex located in North Ridge (Kamala Nehru Ridge) (Also see: Historic Trail along North Ridge or Kamala Nehru Ridge) contains the ruins of a hunting lodge built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq it is known as Pir Ghaib. Next to Pir Ghaib is a Baoli or step well.

The Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli does not follow the conventional plan of a step well. Here also like the, Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, there is no subterranean passage. The water is reached by a narrow flight of stairs.  But unlike the Tughlaqabad Fort Baoli, the Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli contains some arches with decorative pillars.

9. Loharheri Baoli

Dwarka Sector 12

Loharheri Baoli, Dwarka, Delhi

Loharheri Baoli, Dwarka, Delhi

Loharheri Baoli or the Blacksmith’s stepwell is the latest addition to the long list of Baolis (stepwells) in Delhi.

The Loharheri Baoli is sandwiched between the Dwarka International School and the Gitanjali Housing Complex, in Dwarka Sector 12.

This Lodhi era Baoli was dug out in 2014 by the Delhi State Archaeology Department and INTACH Delhi.

The Loharheri Baoli follows the tradition U – shaped pattern and descends two floors below the ground approachable by a broad staircase. On the side walls are shallow arches and on the far end are arched openings connecting the subterranean channel to the main circular well. Read more…

Other well known Baolis (Stepwells) of Delhi:

  1. L – shaped baoli at Red Fort
  2. Baoli at Dargah of Bakhtiyar Kaki
  3. Baoli at Wazirpur Monument Complex, R K Puram
  4. Baoli next to Arab Sarai, Humayun Tomb Complex

Note: This is a compilation post and not exhaustive, it would be updated from time to time

Special Thanks:

  • Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, fellow heritage enthusiast from Delhi, who have worked extenssiveely on the Baolis (Stepwells) of Delhi
  • Sahil Ahuja, fellow blogger and heritage enthusiast, have accompanied in in exploring some of the lesser known monuments of Delhi. Also his amazing blog with loads of info, is always a source of reference.

  1. May 11, 2017 at 2:10 PM

    I know and have visited some of them but few are very new for me . Thank you so much for sharing a brilliant and informative post !!

    • May 11, 2017 at 2:42 PM

      Thankyou Yogi, dovisit the other Baolis of Ddelhi, its really amazing

  2. May 11, 2017 at 2:11 PM

    Bookmarking this to explore each one of these! Have only been to Ugrasen Ki Baoli!

    • May 11, 2017 at 2:47 PM

      Thank you Mridula, do explore the amazing Baolis of Delhi. I still have four Baolis left in the list. Plan to visit them, during my next trip to Delhi.

  3. May 11, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    Great compilation of Stepwells in Delhi. We have heard about the Ugrasen ki Baoli and seen them in couple of movies as well but not the rest. Thanks for sharing

    • May 13, 2017 at 12:24 PM

      Dear Hema & Suma, please do explore the baolis of Delhi.

      Keep travelling and bloggng

  4. May 11, 2017 at 9:16 PM

    I have always been fascinated by step wells. Nice compilation this!

    Ausi | http://www.wanderfulweekendz.com

    • May 13, 2017 at 12:28 PM

      Thank you wonderful weekendz for the comment. Keep travelling and blogging

  5. May 12, 2017 at 10:26 AM

    Fabulous! I have been to a few step wells in Rajasthan and Gujarat, namely the Chand Baori, Meena Panna Kund and Rani Ki Vav. Have heard about Agrasen ki Baoli, but never got to visit it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • May 13, 2017 at 12:33 PM

      Yes, Quirky Wandere Rajasthan and Gujrat doess have some spectacular step wells, I do have plans to visit and blog about them.

      Thanks for the comment and keep travelling and blogging

  6. July 4, 2017 at 4:18 PM

    Vrry good compilation. Pl have some pics with people around. I have seen all of them.. A few missed out.. will tell you.. thanks for the info.. can you attempt a vittual gallery with these exhibits displayed with pertinent info.. w wshs

  7. July 18, 2017 at 4:55 AM

    I never knew about these befoe, and I am looking fo diffeent things to see, so thank you. The shots emind me of some of the geat bollywood scenes that show places not so well know about

  8. December 2, 2017 at 1:47 PM

    This is a really interesting article, Rangan da. Are there any baoli-like structures in eastern India?

  9. November 16, 2018 at 2:53 PM

    Good that you documented all of these at one place. Have been to all of them except the Dwarka one, and if I am not wrong there should be a couple of more somewhere hidden in my Delhi posts.

  10. Madhurita Banerjee
    January 12, 2019 at 6:18 PM

    I have visited some of these baolis, but I really needed a lot of information about them………thanks!!

  11. Sarju Prasad Mishra
    September 16, 2019 at 2:54 PM

    दत्ता जी प्रणाम,
    बहुत ही रोचक तथ्यों के साथ महत्वपूर्ण जानकारियां साझा करने के लिए धन्यवाद्। आपके द्वारा वर्णित सभी बावली मेने देखी हैं और अब मैं दिल्ली के आस पास की बवली पर कार्य कर रहा हूँ। यदि आपको लगता है की जानकारियां आपके काम आ सकती हैं तो मुझे VU2BQD@gmail.com पर सन्देश भेज दीजियेगा।
    सरजू प्रसाद मिश्र

  12. May 3, 2020 at 9:04 AM

    Your good knowledge plus kindness in using most the pieces were very beneficial.
    I don’t know exactly what I might have done in case I
    haad not found such a step such as this.

  13. Rajat Kumar
    December 24, 2020 at 12:31 PM

    I never knew there were so many baolis in Dehli. Thanks for increasing my knowledge. I have visited Tughlaqabad Fort and Old Fort in January so I checked the baolis there. Agrasen ki baoli, I had visited twice. Then, Rajon ki Baoli and Gandhak ki baoli, I visited in the first week of this December.
    Yet to visit others mentioned here.

  14. Esha
    July 19, 2021 at 7:49 PM

    How to contact you if we want to use your work? What is the copyright status ?

  1. September 23, 2019 at 1:08 PM

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