Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chand Baoli. A Great Heritage Site. NOW IN SHAMBLES!

The power of social media is being felt in many ways. Facebook, Twitter and other such platforms have been used to topple governments and create revolutions in last few years. At a smaller level, it has demonstrated the potential of being a cauldron of interesting and awe inspiring information from all over the world.

Personally, I have benefited from the use of Facebook and Twitter and have discovered information about archeological sites of great cultural importance from all over the world. As a case in point and related to the immediate matter that I wish to share in this blog, let me mention that being an author of several books, I have had the pleasure of connecting with people from all over the world. People who have read my books (the first of which was published in 1998) and have discovered me on Facebook and added me as a friend, have been a source of some feedback and praise apropos these books. 

One such person is Jim Hernandez. Jim is a professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Monclova in Mexico. In his spare time, Jim likes to share information about interesting places from all over the world. About a month or so ago, he posted a picture about Chand Baoli, a stepwell  situated in a village near Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. I was naturally interested in the information he had posted since it was about a place which appeared to be not so far away from here. Also, the picture of this stewell, on his Facebook post was very intriguing. I read about Chand Baoli and decided to pay a visit to the site as soon as possible. 

Yesterday (17th May, 2014), I and Sangeeta visited Chand Baoli. We fell in love with that place on first sight. It is that good! Let me share some pictures and let the pictures do the talking!

A plaque at the entrance of Chand Baoli. ASI (Archeological Survey of India) has very dutifully installed this plaque but beyond that, the place is in shambles.

A grand structure! In it's heydays, it must have been magical. You can see a tall barricade down about 7 steps of the stepwell. But there is also a smaller one right at the top as seen in this picture. This one at the top is a joke and anyone can just climb over it. More about it later.

Another view.

The stepwell has steps on three sides and the fourth side has rooms with huge balconies (seen here on the right), currently in bad state but in their prime must have been pleasure rooms for the king and his queen/s. On a hot afternoon, a great place for siesta and/or you know what... ;)

The place had few visitors. That it was 2 pm and hot was probably one reason. Apart from us, there was a group of 4 youngsters.

At the entrance we found three people  on chairs and one of them immediately got up and started to be our local guide and had to be dissuaded. The place at the entrance was full of sacks of pigeon feed. On the left was a woman in charge of an impromptu temple who was very keen on anointing us with vermillion and make some money in the process.  We got rid of her too and walked down a very large walkway around the stepwell. The walkway was between an outer periphery of portico and the main structure of the stepwell. The portico is full of broken pieces of well carved stone pieces which must have been part of the original structure before it was vandalized during the middle ages. 

Given that the stepwell is now protected by an outer barricade of a 2-feet (yes, quite a joke) high metal structure, we did not initially attempt to go down the steps. But while returning, the whole exercise of traveling from Delhi to Jaipur on a four hour train journey and then a taxi ride for 2 hours to reach this place (and a corresponding return trip) felt like a big waste if we could not even climb a few flights of steps down the stepwell. This initial internal murmur of a grouse suddenly grew into an uncontrollable rage and I turned back at the gate and started to question the two gentlemen (the third guide type had in the meantime found a foreigner and was busy showing him around) who claimed to be employees of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). I demanded to see their identification and chided them that they are treating common citizen of this country with such disdain and should a politician of any political color was to visit the site, they would carry him on their back down the steps to the water level! This was enough to shame them and they said if we wanted to go down the stepwell to the larger 8-feet high barricade, we could but that would be at our own risk and so on!

Oh what pleasure! We ran back and down we went and that was enough clue for the two couples to follow us!

Here is a picture of us at the lower level of the barricade.

NOW from this level, the real sorry state of the structure and the water below hits you like a rude shock. It appears that they have never ever bothered to clean the water body!

With much sadness we climbed up and got out with a crying heart at the state of affairs of a place that can actually be turned around into a great spot of history which can generate a lot of jobs for the local population and a great example of fine engineering skills and artistic heritage of a bygone era for the visitors!

BUT WHO WILL LISTEN? ASI? Are you deaf, dumb and stupid? Prove to the world that you are not! We dare you!


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