Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell

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Chand Baori is a stepwell, one of the oldest and most profound, situated in the Abhaneri village. This Baori has always been on my list of travel, & finally, this winter, I got the opportunity to visit it. The significant journey was to Ambika Shakti Pith Temple located at Virat nagar Bharatpur near Jaipur city, Rajasthan. My mother suggested this place since she has covered most of t Shaktipeth in Rajasthan & this is pending. Well, no logic, but you cannot argue, & we planned the trip.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
Ariel’s view of Viratnagar

On a Saturday morning, we drove towards the Shaktipeth, dedicated to Maa Ambika. Here the idol of maa Sati is called ‘Ambika’, and the lord Shiva is worshipped as ‘Amriteshwar’ (nectar of immortality). The drive from Gurgaon is 3hrs 10min approx 168.5 km. We started early in the morning, around 6 am. It was a misty morning, with few cars on the roads. 

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
Ambika Devi

The Ambika Shaktipeth is among the 51 Shakktipeth of Maa Sati. It is said that the left leg of Maa Sati fell here. When Lord Vishnu relieved Lord Shiva from the grief of losing his wife Sati, he used his ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ to incise maa Sati’s Body.


We had to use google Maps to navigate & reach the destination. The temple was deserted and located on a hilltop with a water source at the base. There are approx 70 odd steps to reach the temple.


The temple’s internal structure is ancient, with a neem tree at the backdrop. However, the rest complex was a new construct. There is a pandit for the worship of the Devi, who stays in the complex. However, we had to look for him for a bit. 

Old Temple

It is said that each Shaktipeth has to be a guarding deity, Bhairav. And interestingly, the god is within the complex of the temple. After our prayers & offerings, we spent some time in the temple complex. It was tranquil & spiritual. By the time we left the place, it was noon.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
Main Sanctum

Our tour ended in half a day, but we still had ample time. Hence I decided to visit Chand Baori, a stepwell. It was built over a thousand years ago in the Abhaneri village of Rajasthan. It was a two hrs15min drive, approx 116.2 km. So we drove towards Abhaneri, a bright sunlit day with a clear sky and cool breeze. On the way, we took a halt for lunch & had aloo paratha. By the time we reached the Baori, it was 2.30 pm. We parked our car & bought tickets from the counter. There were loads of police & cleaning was on its pitch; on enquiring, I got to know the Governor was visiting the historical monuments. Therefore, I entered the Chand Baori promptly. 

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
The Abstract architecture

It was one of the most photogenic Baori I have seen so far. I was mesmerized standing in front of the 13-story deep step well with symmetric triangular steps leading to the water at the bottom. Well, building Baori in the desert was a practical solution for water management. And it even serves as a natural cooler in the summer months. But I was amazed at the thought of inspiration, which led to the construction of this Baori.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell

King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty in the 8th-9th century AD built this Baori. So if I calculate the oldest surviving step well is 1200-1300 years old. That’s fascinating! The Baori was named after the king, and the city was called Abha Nagri. It was built not only to conserve water and provide a respite from the intense heat. But was also a community gathering place for locals as well as royals. 

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
13th storey Baori

According to Steps to Water by Morna Livingston: Chand Baori is amongst the few step wells with “two classical periods of water building in a single setting.” Also, the Baori is 19.5 meters deep with geometric steps. Where the oldest parts of the stepwell date from the 8th century onwards. As I walked around, I saw the fourth side had pillared corridors at multiple levels, with two balconies projecting towards the stepwell. They are adorned with the idols of Mahisasurmardini and Ganesha. Along with the intricately carved jharokhas (windows), galleries and balconies were meant for the royal family to sit in.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
The jharokha

The stepwell also has an image of Sheshasayee Vishnu or the sleeping Vishnu. I was informed there is an image at one of the lower corridors. Since visitors are not allowed to enter the step well, it needs to be visible. The idea is that the stepwell or any water body is supposed to embody Ksheersagar – the ocean of milk where Vishnu lives. But I still wonder about the concept of geometric steps. Was it done just for aesthetics, or was there a practical purpose? I could only think that going sideways may be a little safe. It also allows multiple people to sit close to the water.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
The overall view of the Baori

I admired the Baori, with 35,000 steps on 13 levels which gets narrow as it goes down. Also, the upper palace was added to the site, viewed from the tabulated arches used by the Chauhan rulers. The staircases follow the same pattern as the other three sides but on a larger scale. Even the Baori is enclosed with a high wall, and a corridor runs parallel to this. And an ASI board informed me that these were later additions and were not part of the original plan. Moreover, the passages were full of excavated artefacts.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
35000 Steps

I walked around, using my camera lens; I could zoom in on the play of light and shadow on the steps is what makes the structure so captivating. I wished to recreate the experience and era, to sit in those corridors in the summer heat surrounded by beautifully carved images. That experience can never be forgotten. I further walked up to Harshat Mata Temple adjoining Chand Baori. It was an architecturally splendid and sculpturally beautiful temple. Between the 7th-8th century, the temple was built. But Mahmud Ghazni destroyed it brutally. I walked up to a solitary temple with a dome roof dedicated to Harshat Mata- supposed to be a goddess of happiness and Joy.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
Harshat Mata Temple

It is a small temple on a high platform; you must climb a few steps. The venue had sunflowers carved on it, which was uncommon in Indian temple architecture. Though the temple faces east with Nagar-style shikhara, also called Mahameru Shikhara. While the remains can be seen n the form of broken Amlaka pieces around the temple. Well, what’s an Amlaka? It’s the dome that sits on Shikhara within the Nagar Style. Majorly a Panchratha-style temple.

Chand Baori: The most photogenic stepwell
The details sculpture

Walking around the temple profusely and finely carved broken pillars. Some bottom-level plinths had Mangal Murtis of couples and Sur Sundaris. Even a board game was engraved on the floor. It indicates that this was a place of worship and community space. The main idol inside the temple looks like a recent idol from its style.

Mangal Murti

While leaving the place, I wondered if the 9th-century architectures were a marvel. How would India have looked then?


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