Gurgaon’s deep dark secrets don’t seem to end… and here I mean in a an enchanting way. Gurgaon has in its kitty, locked hundreds of years of heritage that residents are still oblivious to. The locals, though aware, seem nonchalant of it. We discovered two heritage sites of Gurgaon, few standing in ignorance by the authorities and the other recently recognised as a place of interest….. and deserve to be given their due. And so, here I am, doing just that…. the hidden baolis in Gurgaon, stepwells that served inhabitants of the settlements around, through centuries.
Badshahpur Baoli stands in the village of Badshahpur, carrying 113 years of what locals believe is a historic baoli or stepwell. A small detour from the eternally busy Sohna Road, takes you to the village, roughly 9km from the heart of Gurugram. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had in 2000 listed the Badshahpur Baoli as a heritage structure and told the government that it was an important monument which needs to be protected.
An inscription on the baoli tells us that it was constructed in 1905 by Lala Mohanlal. It was made with the intention of social welfare. Being an arid region, there was water scarcity in the region. The baoli went to Lala Mohanlal’s great grandson of Mohanlal Mangla, the last custodian of the baoli until it was acquired by the government in 2012 in lieu of a compensation of Rs 16 lakh. The baoli has remained dry for the past 15-20 years due to lowering of the water table.
Heritage lovers and activists, however, haven’t given up hope yet. Faculty and students from the Sushant School of Art and Architecture, Ansal University, have been undertaking several initiatives to increase engagement with the baoli, while The department of archaeology and museums, meanwhile, says it is waiting for a go-ahead from the urban development authority.
Baoli Ghaus Ali Shah
Built in the 18th century AD, this heritage beauty, the baoli or step-well was built by Ghaus Ali Shah, a local chief during the reign of Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar. A well shaped octagon with multiple stone staircases, built out of stone, lime plaster and bricks, this baoli wears some resemblance with the Turkish hammam. During the reign of Farrukh Siyar, a Mughal Emperor, this step-well was built for the women of the Sheesh Mahal to take a bath.
The water tank in the centre is surrounded by a verandah with well-framed arches on all sides. There are also chambers for relaxation and recreation on the upper storeys. The baoli is considered a monument of importance and has been restored after it was taken over by ASI and renovated.
Akhara Stepwell, also Akhara Baoli, is a stepwell in inside a functional akhara on the same road as the “Badshahpur Baoli”, only few km away, in Badshahpur. Constructed with local materials, such as stone, all these baolis of Gurugram district have mixed Rajput-Jat-Mughal architectural style of 18th-20th centuries with Islamic pointed arches and cusped or segmental arches. In 2018, activists filed the case against the church which filled the heritage baoli with sand to construct a garden! The excavationists are in the process of restoring the stepwell.
Dhumaspur Stepwell, also Dhumaspur Baoli, is a 200 years old Zila Parishad-managed five story stepwell on the “Jail Road” in Dhumaspur village near Badshahpur in Gurugram. If was built on 2 kanal land from the stones brought from Makrana and Jaipur mines.
Gurgaon, there is enough past, heritage and culture here that we could be proud of…… Let’s discover our G-town in a whole new light!