Abhaneri – the largest step well of India

AbhaneriAbhaneri village on Jaipur Agra Highway, 95 kilometres from Jaipur in Dausa district of Rajasthan has lot to offer for tourists. After visiting the forts and palaces in Jaipur, it offers a completely new angle to architecture lovers. It was built by Raja Chand and was initially named Abha Nagri – the city of delight and brightness. It is famous among the tourists for Harshat Mata Temple and Chand Baori – the largest step well of India. The Harshat Mehta temple is more than thousand years old and is considered to be the epitome of brightness, joy and delight by the joyous sculpture of deity Harshat MAta. The villagers offer daily prayers at the temple which consists of beautiful carvings on its pillars. The temple was destroyed by the army of Aurungzeb. However, the ruins still offer a great insight to the ancient art and sculpture.

Step wells have been quite an old concept in India dating back to 10th century. These wells were used by the local villagers to gather and spend their time talking, celebrating festivals in the cool serenity of the cold water of the wells on hot summer days. They were used to harvest rainwater to be subsequently used in droughts as Rajasthan is a dry state with scarcity of water in many areas. However, Chand Baori was built in ninth century, long ago the step wells of Adalaj and Rani ki Vav.

There are many baoris all over the village; however the Chand Baori is the largest. This largest step well of India is a hundred feet tall structure extending in thirteen levels with over thirty five hundred steps running up and down. The criss-cross structure gives an amazing magical three dimensional view running on three sides of the well. The awesome symmetry and geometrical patterns will definitely leave you spell bound. The jharokhas or the viewing galleries of kings and queens on the three storied structure are carved with beautiful sculptures that give an insight into art of medieval India. This provides a true architectural bliss to the eyes. One side of this three sided stairs structure used to be a stage for performing arts. The villagers here are avid performers of Ghoomar, Kalbelia and Bhawai. The Baori also had royal rooms for kings and queens. The Baori was used by the devotees to perform the ritual of cleaning their hands and feet from the water of the well before offering prayers to the deity.

Unlike other monuments and places of interest, the entry to this great structure is completely free. At the entrance, you may also find a bunch of English speaking guides who will give you a quick ten – fifteen minutes discourse on the history of the temple and the Chand Baori. After a lot of up and down movements by kids, they will still return bawled thinking about whether this massive structure was built upside down or vice versa ! It is recommended to spend some time in appreciating the architectural symmetry and views from different angles of the structure. Set out your cameras to capture the most spectacular views and keep clicking at different angles. This is bliss for photography lovers. This site has also been used as a shooting location for Hollywood Blockbusters like The Dark Knight Arises and The Fall. This return drive trip from Jaipur to one of the obscure architectural extravaganza is worth visiting! However, due to the extremely hot summers, this open air structure can be best enjoyed in months from October to March. So, Just set out and start exploring!

Fascinating Abhaneri Village

AbhaneriAbhaneri village near Bandikui in Dausa District of Rajasthan, India has become famous for its architectural splendor in early medieval monuments. Located at a distance of approximately ninety five kilometres from Jaipur, a two to two and a half hour drive, it attracts a lot of tourists travelling from Jaipur to Agra on Jaipur Agra highway. It has a rich history of architecture, culture and performing arts and has become famous for its centuries old Chand Baori step well and Harshat Mata temple. It has been renowned for its ancient art and sculptures, many of which are exclusive and showcased in the best museums of the country.

The village was originally named Abha Nagri – the city of joy, splendor and brightness founded by Raja Chand – the king of Gurjar Pratihar, originally believed to be the descendant of Lord Laxman, younger brother of Lord Rama. The village is believed to be more than four thousand years old and has several explored and unexplored pages of history buried in its ruins. However, the ruins closely resemble the architectural styles of 10th century art and architecture. Now, the name has been changed to Abhaneri.

Harshat Mehta temple is believed to be a source of joy and brightness for this village. The idol of Harshat Mata in joyous mood spreads the splendor of joy all around. The deity is offered daily worship by the local priests and is visited by a lot of locals and tourists daily. However, the annual fair of three days inside the temple attracts lots and lots of devotees and merchants from the adjoining villages. Carved pillars in the temple are worth noticing while the ruins of the deity give a good judgement of the artistic excellence at the time of creation of those sculptures. The temple was destroyed into ruins by Aurungzeb whose army turned the massive structure into ruins. However, the remains of sculptures carved on the walls and statues of this double platform structure still catch visitors’ attention at the first sight.

Chand Baori is a true treat to the architectural extravaganza. 3500 steps forming a myriad from a well on three sides extend in thirteen stories over hundred feet in height. It stands directly opposite to Harshat Mata Temple and was used by devotees to form the ritual of washing hands and mouth before visiting the temple. It is the largest step well of India offering a spectacular view to its visitors. The huge reservoir has long served as a point for community meetings with local villagers enjoying the cool water in hot summer days. The hallways in the front of the three sided step structure are beautifully sculptured and contain passages leading to the royal chambers of kings and queens. It has attracted overseas directors to shoot at this site in films like The Dark Knight Rises and The Fall. It offers a perfect photographic location and you would feel your fingers unconsciously clinching the camera to capture the perfect shot from the top.

The Abhaneri village brings with it a lot of creativity clearly depicted in unique mindset of people. Baoris, the traditional reservoirs for storing rainwater to make up for the scarcity in the dry seasons of Rajasthan are a great concept implemented well in Abhaneri. Abhaneri also boasts of its cultural extravaganza with Ghoomar, Kalbelia and Bhawai unique dance forms typical of Rajasthan. A one day return drive from Jaipur will be truly rejuvenating for visiting this ancient village. Because of its proximity to Jaipur, it is easily accessible on tourism map. The best time to visit this amazing place is in the months of October to March as it gets really hot in summers.