The well of solitude.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Amid the business towers and residential apartments of the Colonial-era Connaught Place, this 14th century baoli or ancient step-well, is flanked on both sides by niches, chambers and passageways, and the 104 stone steps descending into the well’s dried-up base, have three levels.
It is not certain who built it, though some credit it to a king called Agrasen; hence the name.
As you enter, you will see a mosque on one side. Initially, you will hear the cooing of hundreds of pigeons. But as you walk down the stairs, the silence deepens, the city skyline disappears and the daylight fades away.
This was a reservoir, as well as a summer refuge, for heat-stricken citizens living in pre-Lodhi times. As the water level receded each summer, the people would seek a cool retreat in the baoli’s lower reaches. There was water (and filth) here until 2002. Boys swam, lovers threw wish-making coins… and the depressed jumped.
But the popularity of this baoli, spanning 60 metres in length and 15 metres in width, has evaporated with its water.
Its solitude is remarkable but that is a pity in some ways. Here is a beautiful relic that has survived in a time capsule and is holding its own against urbanisation, and yet its magnificence lies unacknowledged.
Where Hailey Road, near KG Marg, Connaught Place Time 9am-5pm Nearest Metro Station Barakhamba