Home > Delhi, Delhi Architecture, Delhi History, General > Agrasen ki Baoli, the most ornate stepwell of Delhi

Agrasen ki Baoli, the most ornate stepwell of Delhi

Agrasen ki Baoli

The most ornate stepwell 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.

A foreign tourist makes her way up the steps of Agrasen ki Baoli (Ugrasen ki Baoli), Delhi

A foreign tourist makes her way up the steps of Agrasen ki Baoli (Ugrasen ki Baoli), Delhi

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.

Perfect lines of symmetry, Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Perfect lines of symmetry, Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

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.

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. (Also see: A compilation of Baolis of Delhi)

Tourist folk at Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Tourist folk at Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Although Delhi has more than a dozen stepwells the Agrasen ki Baoli, also called Ugrasen ki Baoli stands out. It is one of the largest and definitely the most ornate stepwell of Delhi.

It is located at the very heart of Delhi on Haley Lane, just off the Haley Road and behind the Banga Bhagabawan, and is located at a walking distance from both Connaught Place and India Gate.

Even though easily accessible Agrsen ki Baoli remains hidden behind the modern tall buildings and the old bungalows of Luytens’ Delhi.

In recent years the century old baoli is attracting hordes of visitors, and the credit goes to Amir Khan’s Bolywood blockbuster PK. Agrasen ki Baoli, provided shelter to Amir Khan, who played the character Pk, in the movie of the same name.

Ever since the release of PK in 2015, the Agrasen ki Baoli has become a favourite hunt for for both local and foreign tourist, who have joined hands with curios locals.

There are alsostories of Agrasen ki Baoli being haunted and the black waters (which reaches to a maximum height of 4 to 5 feet) of the Baoli invite people to jump into it and commit suicide. But according to official reports, there is only one suicide that happened in recent years and that too a decade ago on June 2007.

A few scattered tourists admire the beauty of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

A few scattered tourists admire the beauty of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Ghost or no ghost but this stories have added an extra dose of popularity to the almost forgotten stepwell of Delhi. Today every day during the late afternoon and evening time, the Agrasen ki Baoli is flooded with visitors narrating stories of the ghosts at Agrasen ki Baoli.

A lone photographer  takes aim from the steps of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

A lone photographer  takes aim from the steps of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Even the tourist guides are not far behind, cooking up interesting ghost anecdotes while they narrate the history and architectural details of Agrasen ki Baoli, the most ornate baoli of Delhi.

Sadly Agrasen ki Baoli remains open from 7am – 6pm, thus denying the curious visitors the opportunity to spend a night with the ghost.

It is named after the legendary king Raja Agrasen (or Raja Ugrasen) of Agroha, who also happens to be the progenitor of Agarwal community.

On the other hand architectural features suggest that the baoli (or stepwell) was built during the Tughlaq Period (1321 -1414) or Lodi Period (1451 – 1526).

Mosque, Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Mosque, Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Agrasen ki Baoli measurs 60 m in the north – south direction and is 15 m wide, and is made of rubble massonary. On the south – west corner of the Baoli is a small mosque.

The mosque is approached by a triple arched entrance but the arch on the southern side have long collapsed, along with the portions of the ‘whale back’ roof.

Three of the four red sandstone pillared columns, that supported the arches, stands to this day.

The red sand stone pillars are carved with chaitya motif and stucco medallions. The mosque is an unique piece of architecture, which is often ignored by the ghost seeking tourist.

Visitors take a walk along the side ramp of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Visitors take a walk along the side ramp of Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

On  the northern end of the Agrasen ki Baoli is the circular well, measuring 8 m in diameter. The top of the well is covered with a iron grill preventing people from falling or from committing suicide.

Central arch on northern end of Agrasen ki Baoli. The arched shafts connect it with the well behind

The well is connected to the rectangular passage by shafts and as water rose in the well it would fill the passage from bottom to top. On the southern side is a flight of 108 steps descending to the base of the baoli.

Recessed arches on the side walls, Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

Presently the baoli remains dry almost throughout the year, but it was not so even a half a century ago. Even half a century agoas the visitors descends down the stairway Agrasen ki Baoli was full of water during the monsoon.

Legendary photographer Raghu Rai, famous black & white photo, shows a kid jumping in to the water filled Agrasen ki Baoli (see: photo). The kid in 1971 photo, is Bagh Singh, the present watchman of Agrasen ki Baoli.

The steps, on either side are flanked by thick walls and descends four level bellow the ground. The top two levels each contains two layers of recessed arches. The upper arches have a shallow recesses and are probably for ornamental purpose, while the lower ones are deeper allowing people to sit and enjoy the ambiance of the step well, which was once filled with water. There are also rooms and passageways inside the Agrasen ki Baoli, but sadly there are kept under lock and key and are out of reach of visitors and tourist.

Pigeons take a flight above Agrasen ki Baoli (Ugrasen ki Baoli), Delhi

The Agrasen ki Baoli serves as a living quarters for hundred of bats. As the visitors descends down the stairway, their presence can be felt by the ruckus, created by them. The baoli serves as the home for hundreds of pigeons and if you are lucky you can take a group flight above the Agrasen ki Baoli (also called Ugrasen ki Baoli).

  1. August 10, 2017 at 10:52 PM


  2. August 10, 2017 at 10:52 PM


  3. August 11, 2017 at 10:39 PM


  4. August 22, 2017 at 8:47 PM

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    • September 23, 2017 at 1:04 PM

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  5. September 6, 2017 at 1:20 PM

    Amazing post. .

  6. December 2, 2017 at 1:34 PM

    I have not yet visited Agrasen ki Baoli but the architecture appears so ornate. Baolis like this kind of look of temples turned upside down, don’t they?

    • March 24, 2018 at 10:23 AM

      Yes Baolis are upside down structures. Please do visit Agrasen Ki Baoli in Delhi, but this is not the only Baoli in Delhi. For more please do have a look at my blog post Baolis (Stepwell) of Delhi

  7. December 27, 2017 at 1:10 PM

    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it,

  1. March 13, 2018 at 10:42 PM

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