A historical town like Delhi can throw up surprises. One such surprise to me was the Agrasen ki Baoli. It is situated on Hailey lane a kilometer from CP but still under the shadows of its multi-storey buildings.
This was believed to have been built by king Ugrasen of the Mahabharat era but rebuilt by the Agrawal community in the14th century. It is about 60 m long and 15 M wide. It has about 100 steps.
The main well shaft opens out to the sky and there was no water when I visited. The rubble and stone masonry is well preserved (probably recently renovated).
Unlike the step wells of Gujarat,this has no sculptures.
There were hardly any tourists when I visited but many young students and couples. The monument became more popular thanks to a controversial Hindi movie.
I came across the word ‘Darwaza’ when I entered IIM, Ahmedabad in 1969.The city’s Lal Darwaza and Teen Darwaza were commercial centres as well as traffic hubs. I knew little about their historical significance.
During my summer job in Delhi in 1970, I became familiar with Ajmeri Gate and Kashmiri Gate and also Lahori Gate and Delhi(!) Gate. In fact, I was staying in a college hostel right on Ajmeri gate not far from the seamy quarters of this historical city.
Historically, these darwazas or gates have been integral parts of the fortified medieval cities. They aided in security and defence and also in collecting taxes and tolls.
In term of number of gates, Aurangabad tops the list with 52 gates. Of these 52, only 10 or 12 remain today. I could see and capture in my camera 5 or 6 of these during my visit last month.
The original name of the city was Khadki. it was the seat of power of Malik Amber, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam of Ahmednagar. Some of the earliest gates (Bhadkal?) were built by him. His son who succeeded him renamed the city Fatehnagar. When the Mughals captured the city Aurangazeb was made the Viceroy by the Shah Jahan. Auraganzeb renamed it after himself – Aurangabad.
The Bibi ka Maqbara was built by the son of Aurangazeb, Azam Shah, in memory of his mother. Aurangazeb was never keen on building monuments and he was also stingy. He sanctioned only Rs.7 lakh for this project.The son finished the project in about 6,68,000 Rupees (cf. Taj Mahal Rs 320,00,000) . Only the domes and doors are made of marble. A lot of it is brick and lime mortar with eggshells.
The monument resembles Taj but it is clear that it is an imitation. Yet it is worth a visit.