Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Neemrana Baoli (step well) in Rajasthan - a great monument of ''National'' imprortance

Neemrana step well, Rajasthan  silkroadgallery.co.
Alwar distt. Rajasthan Maps of India
 Step wells are  actually ponds/pools of water deep in the ground that can be accessed  by descending a series of steps  from the surface. Such wells are common in semi-arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan often referred to as Baoli. Here, the ground water level is far below the surface. The wells may be muti-storied and water will be raised to the top or first floor with  a bullock turning a water wheel. Though the purpose of the well is utilitarian, providing water to the neighboring community,  taking care of irrigation needs and to deal with seasonal  fluctuations in the water level underground, the advantage of step wells is it provides opportunities for people to access the pool comfortably at greater depth in a relaxing mood. Further, traditionally bawadis in the region have also served  as sarai (resting places) for  weary travelers and traders as they were on-route, with ample water and cooler.
Neemrana step well, Rajasthan  vagabondimages.in
The step wells, it is likely,  may have originated centuries ago to ensure water during periods of drought and consist of  two parts: a vertical shaft (size depends on the location and purpose) from which water is drawn from the pool and the sides are provided with  inclined subterranean ornamental passageways, chambers and steps to access  the well. In other step wells, they are mostly ornamental and embellished with amazing architectural features and geometrical patterns though the purpose of  construction of step wells is collect water. The ornamental  galleries and chambers surrounding these wells are spacious  and are  used as a quiet retreats during the hot summers.  
Neemrana step well, Rajasthan vagabondimages.in

Normally, women are associated with these wells because they are the ones who collect the water. They also use the underground gallery for occasional religious ceremony and social gathering. The main advantage is they give relief to the people  from summer heat.They are proven  to be well-built strong and well carved  structures, capable of  withstanding earthquakes.
Neemrana step well, Rajasthan Flickr
Neemrana  in Alwar district of Rajasthan, India, now an industrial town, has a popular step well also locally called  Bawadi and Baoris. The interesting fact is its builder in 1740 was none other than  Raja Todar Mal.  He was the Finance Minister of the Mogul empire during Akbar's reign. besides  being one of the Navaratnas in Akbar's durbar (court). He  was the governor of Gujarat, also managed Akbar's Mint in Bengal and served in Punjab. Todar Mal's most significant contribution, which is appreciated even today, is that he overhauled  and improved the revenue system of Akbar's Mogul empire. Raja Todar Mal built a fortress-palace at Laharpur in the Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh. He died in Lahore, Pakistan in November 1569.
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Raja Todar Mal NGA Collection Simple - National Gallery of Australia
The step well built by Raja Todar Mal is  a 9 story-story underground structure with  86 colonnaded openings at the ground level from where the visitors can use 170 steps to access the water pool deep down below the ground. The height of each floor is roughly 20 feet. Considering the height of each floor, imagine how deep the builder would have dug the earth to build a suitable step well for the benefit of people. In a dry terrain like this, this job would have been a difficult endeavor.  This place is a revered one and  is a popular destination for the tourists. In those days building step-wells by the rulers was considered as a great charitable act.

Neemrana step well, Rajasthan  vagabondimages.in
Media reports point out that this monument of great beauty is not given due consideration for proper restoration. Centuries of neglect, sheer apathy and lack of maintenance and proper care have left this amazing monument in ruin as the bottom portions are filled with broken debris mud and silt. No doubt, it is in a state of disrepair and needs serious attention.  The stone carvings have lost the beauty and sheen. The need of the hour is to preserve the heritage value of this old well. Recently, the ASI - Archaeological Survey of India declared it as a monument of national importance.It is a good step in the right direction and the government should bring this monument back to old glory, dispelling gloomy atmosphere  prevailing over this area on account of prolonged degradation caused by lack of periodic care
 https://vagabondimages.in/2016/01/21/stepping-into-history-neemrana-bawadi/
https://www.ghumakkar.com/neemrana-bundi-search-indian-step-wells-part-1/