The Most Stunning Baolis Of India

An architectural concept spanning centuries, baolis make for some of the most marvellous sights in India
Chand Baori, Rajasthan
Chand Baori, RajasthanShutterstock

History of Baolis

Baolis, called stepwells in English, or baori or vav, are intricate structures where steps descend into a well allowing easy access to groundwater. These served as water sources and social hubs in ancient India, while some held cultural and religious significance. They varied in style, adapting to regional aesthetics and social needs. Certain baolis even transformed into heritage temples with sacred water.

Distinct from stepped ponds, baolis feature water hidden within dark steps, reducing evaporation and prolonging storage. They're excavated in areas with abundant groundwater, often near religious sites and trade routes. Key baoli attributes include stepped architecture, decorative designs, cleaning shafts, and religious importance.

Based on the number of entrances, historians see four different styles of stepwells, which are Nanda (one entrance), Bhadra (two entrances), Jaya (three entrances), and Vijaya (four entrances).

Adi Kadi Vav, Gujarat
Adi Kadi Vav, GujaratWikimedia Commons

India's earliest evidence of baolis dates back to 200-400 AD, with examples of the bath-like pond in Junagadh's Uparkot Fort (Adi Kadi Vav). Originating in Southwestern Gujarat, baolis expanded to Rajasthan. The Mughals elevated baolis into ornamental marvels, evident in structures like Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh in Kashmir, complementing their gardens. The British introduced pipe and pump systems to improve hygiene and serve their needs.

Baolis had both practical and social functions. They diversified in style and purpose over time, with Mughal influence notably enhancing their aesthetic value. Later, British interventions modernised these structures for better functionality.

Baolis in India

Explore the many baolis in India which have stood the test of time and served several purposes ranging from bathing, cooling, socialising, outlining regional and religious identities, and as beautiful locations in films.


Rani Ki Vav

Rani Ki Vav, Gujarat
Rani Ki Vav, GujaratShutterstock

The Rani Ki Vav, or the Queen’s Step-well, is situated on the banks of the Saraswati River in Patan of Gujarat. The baoli was constructed in the Chalukya dynasty and is seen as a Nanda-type stepwell.

Carvings in Rani Ki Vav
Carvings in Rani Ki VavShutterstock

It reflects the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture, a West-Indian style of temple architecture that originated in Gujarat, and the genius of artisans’s hands. Since 2014, Rani Ki Vav has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Adalaj Stepwell

Adalaj Stepwell
Adalaj StepwellShutterstock

Built in 1498, the Adalaj Stepwell is an intricate work of architecture and is five-storeys deep. The baoli is a sandstone Solanki-style, or Maru-Gurjara structure with motifs of flowers and Hindu as well as Jain gods.

Carvings in Rani Ki Vav
Carvings in Rani Ki VavShutterstock

The temperature within the baoli is cooler by 5 degrees than the outside. Legend has it that Rana Veer Singh built the baoli to eradicate water crisis in his kingdom in the 15th century.


Agrasen Ki Baoli

Agrasen Ki Baoli, Delhi
Agrasen Ki Baoli, DelhiShutterstock

It is not confirmed who constructed the Agrasen Ki Baoli. Some believe that Maharaja Agrasen built the baoli while the architecture hints at the 14th century Lodhi style. The Archaeological Survey of India designated the site as a protected monument. Blockbuster films such as “PK” (2014) and “Sultan” (2016) have been shot here.

Rajaon Ki Baoli

Rajaon Ki Baoli, Delhi
Rajaon Ki Baoli, DelhiShutterstock

Rajaon Ki Baoli is a 16th-century stepwell, which was commissioned by Daulat Khan of the Lodhi dynasty. It is nestled in the secluded Mehrauli Archaeological Park of Delhi. The premises of the baoli also include a mosque and a tomb. It is at about 2 km away from the Qutub Minar Complex.


Chand Baori

Chand Baori, Rajasthan
Chand Baori, RajasthanShutterstock

The Chand Baori is one of the largest and deepest baolis in India. It is a brilliant piece of architecture of a baoli, which goes about 100 ft into the ground. On its three sides, it has about 3500 steps narrowing deep into the tank at the bottom. Many films such as “Bhool Bhulaiya” (2007) and “Paheli” (2005) were shot here.

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori, Rajasthan
Raniji Ki Baori, RajasthanShutterstock

Built-in 1699 by Rani Nathvati Ji Solanki, the Raniji Ki Baori is a 150-ft deep stepwell located in Bundi, Rajasthan. It has some of the finest carvings on its pillars adorned by a high-arched gate.

Elephant statues at Raniji Ki Baori
Elephant statues at Raniji Ki BaoriShutterstock

The baori has stone elephant statues and ogee brackets that enhance the beauty of the place.

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