Delhi has over 15 known baolis. Of these, we list here the top 10 baolis of Delhi based on their popularity, condition and history.
In the days gone by, Delhi was a clutch of villages and localities. The main source of water for the residents of these villages used to wells and baolis that dotted the landscape. As the city expanded, the wells started disappearing and so did the baolis. Today there are only a few baolis left some of which are in a very bad condition.
Not all baolis are as famous as Agrasen Ki Baoli, the one where Aamir Khan took shelter in PK. Some are equally beautiful but are mostly ignored. Officially there are 15 baolis, documented in books published by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
We list below the top 10 baolis of Delhi rated on their popularity, architectural design, ease of access, physical condition and utilitarian value. Starting number 10, we move to the top baoli in Delhi.
10: Baoli of Qutub Sahib
If ask for directions to the Baoli of Qutub Sahib, chances are you will get blank looks. Gandhak Ki Baoli and Rajon Ki Baoli are well known but not the baoli that lies hidden and locked in the Qutub Sahib dargah complex. Constructed in 1846 AD by Hafiz Daud for the use of the Dargah, the monument itself is in a bad condition and is mostly used as a garbage dump.
09: Firoz Shah Kotla Baoli
The baoli lies locked and in ruins but is still used to water the gardens within the Firoz Shah Kotla complex. One would not be able to see much of the insides of the baoli. You can however climb up the pyramidical monument where the Asokan pillar in installed for an elevated view. However, a clear view of the baoli is still not possible. The guards at the complex maintain that the baoli has remained locked since a suicide incident in early 2014.
08: Hindu Rao Hospital Baoli
It is difficult to imagine a baoli in a hospital campus but that’s what we have at Hindu Rao Hospital in North Delhi. The monument dates back to emperor Firoz Shah’s reign and used to be encircled by a series of chambers. All that has disappeared and what remains now are the ruins of a once beautiful baoli. In early twentieth century a tunnel was discovered on the north wall of the monument but has never been fully explored.
07: Old Fort (Purana Qila) Baoli
Till the early twentieth century, a village was located within the Old Fort. In March 1913, as part of the mass clearing of land to build the new city of Delhi, the village was flattened and the 1900 residents relocated to Rohtak, Bulandshahr and Gurgaon. When the village’s garbage pit was cleared it was discovered that it was actually a baoli, 89 steps deep and with around 8 resting places. Today the baoli is one of the most interesting monuments within the Old Fort complex.
06: Sector 5, Rama Krishna (R.K.) Puram Baoli
Location: Sector 5, R.K. Puram, near Munirka
The baoli is part of the larger Wazirpur group of tombs and mosque, and is hidden within the government residential campus. Like the other baolis across Delhi, for a long time the monument lay in ruins until it was revived by the Archaeological survey of India (ASI). An interesting feature of the baoli is the presence of two domed turrets (short towers) at the eastern end. Another notable feature is a stone channel connected to the well, which could have been used to water the garden in the complex. The baoli is believed to belong to the Lodi period (1451-1526 AD).
05: Baoli of Nizamuddin
The Baoli of Nizamuddin competes with Agrasen Ki Baoli in terms of popularity. Located closed to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin, in Nizamuddin Basti, the water in the baoli is believed to have healing powers. Along with Gandhak Ki Baoli, it is also the only other baoli with water at a respectable level and that is still in use. Built under the supervision of Hazrat Nizamuddin in 1321-22 AD, the baoli became the cause of dispute between Nizamuddin and the Delhi Sultanate emperor Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. The emperor is best known for building the Tughlaqabad Fort in Delhi.
04: Gandhak Ki Baoli
Old British records describe Gandhak Ki Baoli as the diving well. It was mainly because boys used to dive into the water for the amusement of onlookers. The years have passed and Mehrauli has become more crowded, but boys can still be spotted at the monument. On any given day you might find them diving into or swimming in the green water. Along with the Baoli of Nizamuddin, Gandhak Ki Baoli holds the distinction of being used as a waterbody by common people.
03: Red Fort Baoli
Location: Near Swatantra Senani Museum, Red Fort
Among the baolis in Delhi, the Red Fort Baoli has the most unique design. It is ‘L’ shape in plan with proper apartments on both side of the flight of steps leading down to the bottom. While mostly rubble masonry has been used for the construction of the other baolis, the Red Fort baoli uses uniform sized stone units. In 1945-46, it was used to imprison Indian National Army (INA) officers Colonel Shah Nawaz Khan, Colonel P.K. Sehgal and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. It is believed that the baoli is older than Red Fort, which was built in 1648 AD.
02: Rajon Ki Baoli
Traditionally it has been believed that Rajon Ki Baoli got its name from Rajon or masons, who used the baoli. Though it’s easily accessible, the baoli lies deep inside the Mehrauli Park and the path leading to it is most often deserted. Rajon Ki Baoli is one of the most elaborately designed baolis in Delhi and competes with Agrasen Ki Baoli in terms of architectural sophistication. It belongs to the Lodi period and has an inscription that states it was built in 1512 AD.
01: Agrasen Ki Baoli
The design, physical condition and ease of access make Agrasen Ki Baoli the most popular baoli in Delhi. It is located among high-rise buildings in the Connaught Place area of New Delhi, hiding it completely and thus adding to its charm (even though present laws forbid construction near protected monuments). Agrasen Ki Baoli was made doubly famous by Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma’s Bollywood flick PK.