One reason why I was elated in my last post about Adalaj Vav near Ahmedabad in Gujarat was that I had been earlier to a few of other step wells and had been very disappointed with their maintenance. One of them is Bawadi (Baori or Baoli or step well) at Neemrana in Rajasthan. Neemrana is more famous for its 15th century fort-palace which is now a heritage hotel. This hotel has also been base of India’s first zip line tour- flying fox.
Well, back to the step well. You can imagine by the photo below, that how grand it would have been.
This bawadi is located inside the Neemrana village (although Neemrana is now more of an industrial township as well as education hub). Its not very far from the fort palace. The first sight itself proves how glorious it would have been. On the hindsight, I can say that this would have been more magnificent then most of other step wells in the region, including the Adalaj Vav. It can be called as architectural marvel. It looks more like a fortress than a step well.
Traditionally bawadis in the region have also acted as sarai (resting places) for travellers and traders as they were on-route, with ample water and cooler. There is no concrete evidence of the year, when this bawadi was built. As the tourism department board here mentions nothing of this sort. By many accounts it seems that it was built perhaps in 1700 or later by Thakur Janak Singh. A account also says that it was built for the purpose of famine relief by local rulers. As history says, this area was ruled by Chauhans for most of the period who were in direct lineage of Prithviraj Chauhan.
Some people call it as Rani ki Bawadi. But there are no details about this Rani (queen) on whom this step well would have been purportedly named. This step well had nine floors. With last two floors were under water.
At ground level, there used to be 86 colonnaded openings from where the visitors have to descend 170 steps to the deepest water source. More than 20 stairs from the eighth floor downwards were in water.
Height of each floor was around 20 feet. Now consider that it had nine floor than you can imagine that how deep a structure was built at that time which was completely underground. Stupendous! Isn’t it!!
But centuries of neglect almost ruined the place. It was left abandoned, deserted which led to loss of its original beauty. Bottom floors were filled with mud and silt.
With no knowledge about the original plan, we don’t know how much of its historical past have we lost. There are absolutely no carvings in the whole structure. It may be because it was built later than the more fruitful architectural timings of earlier centuries.
Efforts are needed to bring out such heritage from the engulfing darkness as our preservation strategies have always been very selective. Well from the image below we can easily identify these black spots on the walls of the bawadi.
This structure has all signs of a glorious building.
But as a tourist we always have very uncanny habit of living our prints. Astonishing!!
There are renewed efforts to preserve this building though under the rural tourism project.
There are plans to convert this into a crafts haat (flea market). This involves restoring many roofs, re-doing the brackets, flooring, plastering and ensuring security through metal gates and father’s (stone parapets). The steps are also planned to be re-laid.
Will these flourish with a beaming market?
I am sceptical though whether this heritage needs a craft market to be preserved, or whether it would not damage it more or whether it would destroy its historical importance. I might be wrong. Only time is going to tell that.