Gandhak Ki Baoli in Delhi is a rock cut step well built during the reign of Emperor Iltutmish (1296 – 1316). It is part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park which is located near the Qutb Minar Complex. Step wells are also known as ‘Baolis’ are a unique form of architecture that combines the aesthetics of design and the necessity for conservation of water. The rains in India have always had an erratic pattern and hence the need for water conservation was a priority for the people since ages. Lakes were dug and wells drilled to conserve the water that was available during the short monsoon season. Delhi has its share of such wells or Baolis as the Delhiwalas refer to them. Gandhak Ki Baoli is one of the deepest amongst the network of Baolis here. In all probability, it is also Delhi’s oldest surviving Baoli.
Legend has it that Sultan Iltutmish during one of his visits to the Sufi Saint Hazrat Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki, found that due to acute water shortage in the area and the saint was unable to have regular baths. This made him order the construction of the step well which was called Gandhak Ki Baoli. The name ‘Gandhak’ means sulphur and ‘Baoli’ means ‘a well with steps’. It is said that water in the well smelt of sulphur. Water containing sulphur is supposedly good for many skin ailments.
Gandhak Ki Baoli has been constructed in the form of a huge five tiered structure. It is a fairly simple structure that descends five stages below the ground. It has lean stone pillars and narrow walkways with passages at the landings of each of the five tiers of the structure. There is a stairway with stone steps leading down to the water surface at the lowest level. Gandhak Ki Baoli has water in it at all times although the water levels are drastically reduced during the dry summer season. The sparkling waters fill up to four stages of the Gandhak Ki Baoli during the peak monsoon season. It is said that baolis provide cool comfort in the scorching summer heat to those who choose to relax in the passages and chambers they provide. The water of Gandhak Ki baoli isn’t suitable for drinking purposes. The local boys use the Gandhak Ki Baoli as a makeshift diving pool. The steps and passages are used by locals as their ‘sites for social networking’ over a cup of tea.
Although the water levels in the well aren’t too deep, it is advisable to be cautious while exploring the monument as there are no protective barriers. This medieval structure has a very uneven surface at the extreme bottom and a fall from any higher landing could be dangerous. In spite of being surrounded by modernity in the highly congested Mehrauli area of South Delhi, the step well of Gandhak Ki Baoli remains one of the lesser known monuments which offer a glimpse of medieval Delhi.
Featured Photo by varunshiv