Gandhak Ki Baoli

Gandhak Ki Baoli, located near Adham Khan’s tomb in Mehrauli, is believed to have curative properties

Divers at Gandhak Ki Baoli
Divers at Gandhak Ki Baoli

Gandhak Ki Baoli is one of the few baolis in Delhi that are still in use. One can find people diving into or bathing in the stagnant water. The underground streams, the source of water for the baoli, are now dried up and are the reason why the water remains dirty. The other cause is that a part of the baoli is used as a garbage pit. Old British records refer to it as the Diving Well because men dived into it for the amusement of visitors.

One of the oldest in Delhi, Gandhak Ki Baoli has a simple yet striking design. It was built between 1210 and 1235 AD, during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate emperor Shams-ud-din Iltutmish. He is best known for building the second and third storeys of Qutub Minar. The founder of the Delhi Sultanate and the one who started work on Qutub Minar, Qutub-ud-din Aibak had bought Iltutmish as a slave when the latter was a young boy. Iltutmish later became Aibak’s son-in-law and succeeded him to the throne of Delhi.

In the book The Delhi That No-one Know, Ronald Vivian (RV) Smith describes the origins of Gandhak Ki Baoli. He writes that one day Iltutmish visited the saint Qutub Sahib and noticed that he hadn’t bathed for days. Upon his enquiries he found out that the saint had nowhere to bathe. Iltutmish immediately ordered for a step-well to be constructed, which finished in record time and is now called Gandhak Ki Baoli.

Gandhak Ki Baoli
View of Gandhak Ki Baoli from the northern end

The water in the baoli is believed to contain GandhaK (‘Brimstone’ in English) or Sulphur. Ayurvedic medicine practitioners say that sulphur helps in keeping the skin hydrated and looking young. It is also believed to relieve liver disorders, cure various skin diseases and in flushing out toxins from the body. The belief in the curative powers of the water seems to be the reason why Gandhak Ki Baoli continues to remain in use even after over 800 years.

The step-well is divided into five levels with each tier narrowing as it descends to the bottom. The circular well lies to the south of the baoli. A flight of 105 steps, almost the same as Agrasen Ki Baoli‘s 108 steps, lead down to the water level. Each tier has galleries on the east and west side, which gives access to the circular portion of the well. The step-well measures 40.5 meters north to south and 10.6 meters east to west. Coarse rubble stone of uniform size is used for the construction.

The pillars, especially at the fourth level, bear striking resemblance to the pillars used in the construction of Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque in the Qutub Minar Complex. In all probability, material from Jain and Hindu temples was used for the construction of Gandhak Ki Baoli.

Gandhak Ki Baoli
The pillars of Gandhak Ki Baoli are strikingly ornate

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