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Chand Baori

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Nov 22, 2012 01:04 AM
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by Geoff Manaugh (noreply@blogger.com) last modified Nov 21, 2012



 

 

I had the pleasure earlier this year of visiting a site I've long been obsessed with from afar, the magnificent stepwell of Chand Baori, in Abhaneri, India.

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

Nicola Twilley and I hired a car and driver for roughly USD $50-$60, for what turned out to be a total of about 5 hours, and we drove out from Jaipur to the small town of Abhaneri. Here is the site from above, on Google Maps. For anyone else interested in taking this trip some day, it is well worth the drive from Jaipur (and you can also visit the surreal ruined temple of Harshad Mata, photos of which I'll try to post soon, as well).

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

Taking information straight from the sign that greets you upon arriving at the stepwell—

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

—Chand Baori is the oldest stepwell in Rajasthan, having been constructed in the 8th-9th centuries A.D. It is 19.5 meters, or roughly 64 feet, deep. The overwhelming majority of its surface area consists of steps—thousands of steps—all of which lead down to the water table, turning weekly water-gathering trips by local families into a communal spectacle, a social event framed by this extraordinary act of excavation and architecture.

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

Whether or not the following information is true, I don't know, but Nicola and I heard various versions of why Chand Baori was constructed where it was, the most compelling of which was that the nearby water tables of two oppositely flowing rivers in the region mixed underground here, leading to particularly clean water.

The algae-choked green soup now seen at the bottom of Chand Baori doesn't necessarily make an argument for this version of history, but it's a compelling vision, nonetheless: architecture as a kind of depth probe, spiked down into buried waters inside the Earth.

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

So this is what you see when you first walk in.

[Image: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

The well suddenly appears there, its own horizon line, like a landslide of masonry, a sinkhole stabilized by stairs, and the vertiginous sense of being drawn down into the maw of this place is extraordinary.

[Images: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

While we there, walking around the well's upper edge and peering into alcoves lined with sculptures and fragments of statuary, we got to watch a flock of pigeons fly back and forth over the site seemingly subject to its own tides, birds washing from one side to the other and back again every fifteen minutes or so, nesting on heavily ornamented rock walls above the site or landing en masse on the steps themselves.

[Images: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

In any case, here are a bunch of images from our visit, looking down into the mouth of what is, in a sense, part pit, part building, part hydrological infrastructure, part ritual social space, an ocean of steps. Enjoy (and note that all images here are available in slightly larger versions if you open them in a new window).

[Images: Chand Baori, Abhaneri, India; photo by BLDGBLOG].

Apropos of nothing, here is the route from Jaipur on Google Maps.

 

 

 
 
 

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