Baolis: Restoring stepwells, reviving life

- July 23, 2023
| By : Rohan Chauhan |

It is an attempt to make everyone aware about the efforts that have been made to preserve the remaining stepwells

An exhibition showcasing conservation, by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, of eight stepwells located at the Humayun’s Tomb – Nizamuddin area of Delhi and at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park, Golconda, Hyderabad.

Over several millennial, diverse structures have been built across India to collect and store water for the harsh Indian summer. Of these, Baoli’s or stepwells, which are spread across the country, are most recognized. At the turn of the last century, over a hundred baoli’s dotted the Delhi landscape, off which barely a dozen now survives. Water structures – wells, tanks, stepwells, amongst others – have suffered the same fate across the country.

The exhibition was inaugurated on July 21 by Debashree Mukherjee, IAS (Special Secretary, M/o Jal Shakti)

In 1997, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture commenced the garden restoration of the Humayun’s Tomb World Heritage site. As part of the effort over 120 rainwater recharge pits were introduced within the 26 acre Humayun’s Tomb gardens. Since 2007, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has been engaged in undertaking the Humayun’s Tomb – Sunder Nursery – Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative. Amongst the 60 monuments conserved as part of the project are two significant baolis, a lotus pond and a dozen 16th century wells. Each of these structures now collects rainwater and recharges the groundwater aquifers.

The ‘Restoring Stepwells, Reviving Life’ exhibition demonstrates the conservation process including the manual desilting of 40 feet of sludge and the building of alternate houses for 18 families who lived atop the Nizamuddin Baoli – all possible with significant community involvement.

It is an attempt to make everyone aware about the efforts that have been made to preserve the remaining stepwells. Here over 100 monuments are being conserved, of which six are step-wells.

Conservation, including major reconstruction, for the six-16th century Baoli’s coupled with regrading of earth across the 106- acre complex now allows 20 million liters of rainwater to be collected annually, creating a significant surplus of water and has already allowed the planting of over 10000 native trees with another 5000 planned. Here, the cost of conservation works will be recovered in lieu of the water collected in just a few years.

When: 11 am to 7 pm; July 22 – July 31 , 2023

Where: Art Gallery, Kamaladevi Complex, India International Centre, New Delhi.