Monday, 1 May 2017

Chand Boari, hoary water harvesting structure - sermon in stones

Chand Boari, Rajasthan Pintere

 The concept of step well was originated in India to tackle water problems in the dry regions where the rain fall was minimum. Such well-designed step wells or Boaris or Vavs are found in Rajasthan and part of Gujarat. Indigenous to India, such step wells go hundreds of feet below the ground with steps lining all around. Deep below near the water level, there are well designed large chambers and cornices for the people to take rest. The deep excavations have subterranean channels to store and tap ground water. The step wells show the ingenuity of the past rulers and their concern to tackle drought conditions.

Chand Boari, RajasthanRon Mayhew's Blog -
Abhaneri,  a small village, about  95 kms  from Jaipur in Rajasthan, is a popular tourist destination and the major attractions here are the artistically designed step wells.  The Abhaneri village, that has a glorious past, was established by the then ruler  Raja Chand of the Pratihara clan  and the place was called Abha Nagri (City of Brightness). The name Abha Nagri, over a period of time, became Abhaneri. The  shape of well is square  measuring 35  meters on each side. Of the four sides, three sides have well planned steps  that go down to the bottom of the well. The purpose of this step well in this semi arid region of Rajasthan was to draw water from deeper portion below the ground where there would be less evaporation because of prevailing cool condition. Because of deeper location, the water could last for a last time. In the bygone time, it was a way of harvesting rainwater and storing them for future needs. As a matter of fact, these  are artistically and aesthetically carved  man-made underground reservoirs or water storage tanks. The fourth side had  a pulley to draw water. 

Located opposite to a temple known as Harshat Mata temple, the step well was  built way  back in the 9th Century.  The well is a 13-storey structure, that goes down to a depth of about 100 feet. There are about  3500 steps that exhibit  a fine, impressive symmetrical geometric pattern, quite pleasing to the eyes. One can not miss the diamond-shaped patterns caused by the interplay of light and shades thrown on the steps. It is quite mystifying.  The presence of the temple shows that the well was built for religious purpose as well as for social needs of the travelers between two villages across the dry region

Chand Boari, Rajasthan. Alamy
 The temple and the multi-tiered step wells that were part of
medieval India attract people from all over the world for their simple, but elegant architectural beauty and striking geometric patterns of the step wells that go deep into the ground, embellished on all sides with most attractive and intricate carvings of Rajasthani style in stones. The jharokhas (latticed windows) in stones are quite impressive.


01. The step well - Boari or Vav is a hoary water management system to store water hundreds of feet below the ground level. Step wells are found mostly in Rajasthan and in Gujarat. There are about 30 step wells near Delhi and some are functional.

02. The shape of the step well may be square or rectangle or circular. The sides  have steps going down to access the water. The fourth side is provided with pulley to draw water. Size of the opening may vary from place to place. So is the nature of the ornate features displayed by the temple. 

03. The depth of Boari depends on the  prevailing  water table. Near the water source, resting places are provided. Often, they are embellished. The subterranean  water passages may vary from place to place.

04.  Among the 3000 step wells built between 5th and 18th century, about 1000 plus wells have survived and they are not well taken care of by the governments at the state and central levels..

05. During the colonial times, the British considered the Boaris  not safe and hygienic and closed them.

06. In 2014, the UNESCO recognized the  heritage value of step wells  and now, steps  are being taken to restore these Boaris and Vavs.