Friday, 6 September 2019

Ujala baoli, near Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, an ancient step well

ujala bapli -atlasobscura.com

The historical Mandu, Madhya Pradesh has many attractions for the the tourists who always like something unique that differs from other places of interest. Among many sites in Mandu, the  nicely ornamented step wells never fail to get the attention of the tourists.

Ujala baori, Mandu, MP atlasobscura.com
The artistically made, step well at Mandy  is  a treasure house that has survived the  onslaught of seasonal weather changes and various wars and skirmishes. The near-by Mandu Fort (roughly 19 km from here) is steeped in history as within its confines of huge, sturdy walls took place so  many revelries. Once it was the center of various power struggles in the 15th and 16th centuries between ruling dynasty and the invaders from outside. The reason why other rulers had an eye on this amazing fort  is it was a self-contained one with nice palaces, water tanks,  step wells, water channels, well-guarded gates, etc. The entire site is  a UNESCO recognized world heritage site. With step wells, water channels, etc., the fort was well-guarded against long  siege by the enemies to the fort. Among several step-wells here, the most fascinating one is ''Ujala Baoli''. There are around 60 monuments associated with Madu.
ujala bapli .asianpaints.com

Commonly called as baori, baoli, bawadi, and vav, step wells were more or less like an efficient water-harvesting structures unique to the subcontinent, in particular, in the western regions of India. Gujarat and Rajasthan have plenty of step wells catering to the  water needs of the people living there. As a matter of fact in the 600 CE, thousands were built in the semi arid regions  to live through the hot summer days. Most of step wells have multi-functional structures   below the ground for the benefit of travelling people, etc.  They were built to have direct access to the ground water  all through the year. To have comfortable access to the ground water, ornamented  and geometrical  steps were built carefully  taking care of water depletion  in the summer and water flow in the Monsoon  season during which period, steps, up to a certain level  would submerge. A diligent work, but an effective water conservation procedure.

Ujala (meaning ‘light’). built away from  Mandu  is a strange-looking one as the steps ' geometric patterns  are not prominent unlike other baolis  that have distinctive patterns. The patterns. may be direct or zigzag suggesting  not a “normal” approach. The interesting feature of this baoli is when the steps are  combined  with  carved-out niches and arched chambers, they bring out a sort of sculptural  3D painting  work.  Shadowy arches are a bit disquieting, however,  the surroundings offer calm, almost magical, serenity.  This baoli appears to be diminutive and shallow. 

Centuries ago these baolis offered   travelling public the needed 
rest and relaxation  in the semiarid region. Shadows in the step wells and the buildings below the ground were quite useful to the people. But, the baolis had begun to lose  their  importance during the British colonial rule. With the advent of modern  water pumps, including submersible  water motors, lots of baolis have lost their usefulness  and are not well-maintained now. Like historical monuments, such  time-honored step wells need to be restored 
and preserved for the posterity as they are impressive  and  innovative structures unique to the Indian subcontinent and once it served as  a rain-water harvesting system, taking care of the water needs of the people in that area.
 
Victoria Lautman, author of The Vanishing Stepwells of India says: ''We do not choose our obsessions; they choose us, and I could never have predicted that step wells would commandeer such a large slice of my life.” 
https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ujala-baoli