The Stories of Stepwells – A deep dive into the rich heritage of Purani Dilli

Researched by Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, a heritage enthusiast and photographer, Niyogi Books’ latest publication ‘Delhi Heritage : Top 10 Baolis’, is a very specific and detailed piece of work, focusing on the utility of the stepwells and their importance in meeting the water requirements during olden days of Delhi. 

Adorned with a short foreword by writer and filmmaker Sohail Hashmi, the volume has a lucid language and introduces the concept of Baolis – their basic structure, function, types – thus making it understandable and interesting to laymen. In sleek charts, the specific features of each Baoli has been discussed. 

The ten Baolis that find place in this volume are the Ridge Baoli, Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Baoli, Ugrasen ki Baoli, Munirka Baoli, Gandhak ki Baoli, Purana Qila Baoli, Rajon ki Baoli, Loharheri Baoli, Baoli of Arab ki Sarai and Baoli of Dargah Khwaja Kaki. The significant factors like changes in water levels, accessibility to visitors, cleanliness of the Baoli and the surroundings,usage,area and age of the structures have also been thrown light upon.

The author addresses the vital question regarding the revival of Baolis and proceeds to let us know,with ample sources,why the revival would be difficult. It is interesting how the direction of the steps and effect of sunlight, along with the importance of the process of sedimentation in case of the functioning of a Baoli, have been discussed with the help of simple diagrams by Nupur Bhatnagar.

The author also describes how the cenotaphs and the chambers have been important aesthetic elements of the Baolis. The detailed descriptions of the entrances,walls,roof and inscriptions help the reader to have a vivid image.

While the photographs are great to look at, the production of the book also impresses one who admires history, heritage and culture. For someone who is interested in digging up the lesser known pearls of Indian history is interested in oral history or is passionate about environment and conservation, the smart and slim volume is worth reading up.

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