Chand Baori: India’s Sublime Ancient Stepwell

If M.C. Escher ever designed stepwells in India 1000 years before he was born, the Chand Baori was probably his design. Located in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Chand Baori is the one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. Chand Baori was commissioned by King Chanda in the 9th century to give the local population easy access to clean ground water at the bottom of the well.

Because the steps of the well made it possible for regular villagers to descend down to fetch water, Chand Baori became a popular gathering place, especially during periods of hot weather when the temperature at the bottom of the well would be several degrees cooler than at surface.

The well’s 3,500 narrow steps descend down 12 stories in a dizzying pattern that would give even Felix Baumgartner a feeling of vertigo (okay, so we exaggerate).

Chand Baori is no longer an active well and is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. The algae-covered green water at the bottom of the well does not exactly invoke feelings of refreshment, but certainly adds an otherworldy element to this already mystical structure.

Building stepwells has been a necessity under northern India’s hot summers. The earliest were made around 550 AD, but famous ones like Chand Baori were made during medieval times. And from those times, over 3,000 stepwells were built in India’s two northern states.

But nowadays, don’t expect to still see thousands of them for some have gone dry, old, filled with trash and abandoned; unlike the preserved ancient stepwells like Chand Baori, Agrasen Ki Baoli, Rani Ki Ji Baori, and Adalaj Vav.

Chand Baori isn’t only visited by the locals before just to get clean water for drinking and cooking. Some even had stayed here to bathe, meditate and pray because for Hindus, water is sacred and it represents the boundary between heaven and Earth.

And didn’t you know that this not-so-popular site was actually featured in Hollywood films like “The Fall” (2006) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (Batman, 2012)?

If you plan on going to Jaipur and head to Taj Mahal right after, get this chance right away to get off route and stop over Chand Baori which you can find through the ruined Harshad Mata temple right beside it. Going there could take you for 2 hours from Jaipur by cab, or longer especially if your driver isn’t familiar with the place.

Chand Baori isn’t a popular tourist spot and even the locals may not instruct you the precise way to the stepwell, so better be sure you have enough time or better join tours that include the surprising Chand Baori.

It’s best to visit the village and stepwell from October to March. Be sure that you have packed food and water for there aren’t any facilities around the area.

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