Discovering the Escher-esque Chand Baori, Abhaneri , India

Discovering the Escher-esque Chand Baori, Abhaneri , India

We are traveling east from Jaipur to Agra and the Taj Mahal, but want to find Chand Baori, an ancient, seemingly little known, stepwell. A stepwell, baori in Hindi, is a large stone cistern dug into the ground and lined with steps, enabling villagers to fetch fresh water throughout the year. Rejender, our intrepid driver for the past dozen days while in Rajasthan, says he thinks he has heard of it. Perfect, I think. Another chance to explore some of the way back roads in northern India. Rejender, though somewhat amused with our incessant curiosity, seems up to the challenge.

We know the baori is near a small, back roads village, surrounded by fields of wheat, now being harvested. After driving for a while we stop to stretch our legs. Our driver approaches a group of men and asks about Chand Baori. The men are animated, their Hindi rapid fire, and their arms pointing in several different directions. A smile on his face, Rajinder returns to the car with a shrug. Another several kilometers down the highway, another stop and inquiry. Consensus this time. Go to the next congested area along the road, turn left to the Abhaneri Village, turn right at the roadside market and proceed a few kilometers. It will be on the right just next to the ancient Harshat Mata Hindu Temple.

Oh my gosh, what a sight. Imagine an ancient Egyptian pyramid inverted and thoughtfully lodged into the ground. Chand Baori is over 100 feet deep and is lined with 3,500 symmetrical steps on three sides allowing access to water regardless of the level. The symmetrical, though dizzying, zig-zag pattern of the stone steps is reminiscent of an Escher drawing. The texture created by the light and shadows is the baori”s most fascinating feature.

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

The fourth, northern side is a series of pavilions supported by pillars and faced with beautiful, ornate religious carvings. Temperatures are several degrees cooler near the bottom of the well. Locals would lounge around the well during Rajasthan’s unbearably hot summers while waiting for the much anticipated monsoon.

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Littering the arcade that surrounds the well are beautiful old carvings, supposedly from the Harshat Mata Hindu Temple next door. The temple was built at the same time as the well and honors the Goddess Marshat Mata. It is still an active temple, though in very poor condition.

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Chand Baori , Abhaneri , India

Built in the ninth century by King Chanda the well is one of the oldest and largest in India and provided a dependable water source for centuries until more modern water delivery systems were built during British rule. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, Chand Baori is a class one monument, as is the much more recent Taj Mahal. While this classical example of Hindu architecture is not as elegant as the Taj, not as well preserved, it is well worth discovering. It is amazing that there is so little interest in the hundreds of stepwells that dot northern India. They are a significant part of India’s history as the aqueducts are to the history of the Roman Empire. We knew nothing of stepwells until reading about them on “The Urge to Wander” blog. Thanks Madhu.


Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Absolutely stunning photos of this magnificent Baori Ron!!!! The step-wells of Delhi pale in comparison. The one in Gujarat is supposed to be even more ornate. I hope to see them all someday. Appreciate the mention 🙂

    1. We were unaware of baoris until we read your post. So the thanks go to your. We managed to see three on our recent trip: the one you mention in your post, a very nice one in Jaipur, and this one. I’d like to see all,of them. They are so fascinating.

  2. It is incredibly Escher-esque! I would have to believe he had seen it and used it as inspiration. Amazing place!

    1. That would have been cool. Yes it is truly an amazing place. Thanks Maya.

  3. What an incredible structure, Ron. Your photos are really wonderful, but I imagine one would have to see it ‘in the flesh’, in order to fully appreciate the enormity and precision of this project.

    1. Exactly. The enormity is hard to visualize in a photo. And the detail of the construction given it’s age is amazing. Thank you Sylvia.

  4. These are most splendid photos and what a wonderful old well.

    1. Thank you so much Connie and thanks for visiting.

    1. Thanks Bam and thank you for visiting.

  5. Hi, do you sell your photos? We visited chand baori in April but didn’t manage to get a decent pic. Lynn

  6. Every time I see your photos of India they make me yearn to be back there. I never got to see any stepwells when in Rajasthan so your images give me a wonderful impression of what I missed and why I need to go back.

    1. Thanks for you kind words, Jean. I hope you get the opportunity to return to India. Such a fascinating place.

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