A visit to these iconic step-wells in India will take you back to life in the royal era. By Tanvi Jain

Ancient carvings, hundreds and thousands of steps, picturesque view, and of course all the history. No, we are not talking about palaces but about the lesser-explored step-wells of India. 

1. Chand Baori, Rajasthan

Iconic Step-wells Of India

Located in Abanheri village near Jaipur, Rajasthan, Chand Baori was built over a thousand years ago and is one of the largest step-wells of the world. It was built by King Chand Raja from the Gujara Pratihara clan during the eighth and the ninth centuries for water harvesting. It has 3,500 narrow steps descending 20 meters to the bottom of the well and 13 floors. Its geometrical pattern is one of a kind and hard to find in today’s time. The stairs are surrounded by water on the three sides and on the fourth side by a three-storey-pavilion carved by beautiful jharokhas and galleries on two pillars and sculptures on the balcony. Abhaneri can be best reached from Jaipur. You can either go to Sikandra and take a jeep or taxi to Abhaneri, or you can go to Gular by bus and then walk around one hour to Abhaneri. chandbaori.org 

2. Agrasen Ki Baoli, Delhi

Iconic step-wells of India

Also known as Ugrasen ki Baoli, this step-well was once a water reservoir. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved stepwells in Delhi. It is designated as a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958. It is 60-meter long and 15-meter wide and is located on Hailey Road near Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar. It has 108 steps that lead to the well and is divided into three levels all lined with arched niches. You can either take a DTC bus or a metro to Rajiv Chowk, Barakhamba, Janpath. There is, of course, a wide network of autos, cabs and taxis available in Delhi. delhitourism.travel 

3. Rani-Ki-Vav, Gujarat

Iconic Step-wells Of India

This step-well was commissioned by Rani (Queen) Udayamati in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. It was later flooded by Saraswati river and silted until the late 80s, and was excavated by the ASI with carvings. It has over 800 sculptures among seven galleries and is based on the theme of Dasavataras, or 10 incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. Other avatars include that of sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras, painting their lips and adorning themselves. At water level, there is a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, where it is said that he rests in the infinity between ages. There are intercity buses from Ahmadabad to Patan or you can also take a train to Mehsana first and then a bus to Patan. The nearest airport is Ahmadabad. gujarattourism.com 

4. Imambara step-well, Lucknow

Iconic Step-wells Of India

The Imambara was built by Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daulah. Its central and main halls are unique as they don’t have any conventional pillars to support the 50-feet high arched roof — one of the largest of its kind in the world. It houses a mosque known as Asafi Masjid and a large step-well. To the left of the central hall are enticing narrow passageways called Bhul Bhulaiyya that wind its ways inside the upper floors of the tomb’s structure, eventually leading out to rooftop balconies. The view of the city from the top of the monument is breathtaking. It is advised to take a guide along as the Bhul Bhulaiyya could be really confusingUttarpradesh.gov.in 

5. Hampi step-well, Karnataka

Iconic Step-wells Of India

The Pushkaranis in Hampi is the sacred water tanks that are attached to the temples. The tanks were considered to be sacred by the people of Hampi in ancient times. The Pushkaranis were built during the Vijayanagara Empire, and the water tanks were used during rituals in the temples. They also used to serve as a venue for annual boat festivals. They have large stone steps that help people get into the water, and are connected to an extensive network of stone aqueducts and canals. Bellary is the nearest airport to Hampi. The nearest station would be Hospet Junction Railway Station (10kms). There are many private and government buses as well that connect Hampi to some of the major towns in Karnataka. karnataka.com   

Related: Witnessing A History Of Faith Through A Temple Complex In Pakistan