The tale of Monsoons and Baolis

Architecture Dated:  June 19, 2017
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Courtesy via Ar. Shanmukh Sai Odugu

Rains, appeal everyone. As monsoons, bring smile upon each face after the scorching heats of summers its the best time for the architecture lovers to, resurrect their inner passion for art, visiting historic architecture marvels. Imagining the lifestyles led by our predecessors, in the rich cultural time frame, catching up with the poetic aura these places hold. Not just the musings, these heritage edifices display an important functional aspect as well. Its a fascinating irony, that despite the shortcomings over technological advancements, architecture had its own unique way of blending with the circumstances to produce solutions over the time. Lets talk about Baolis for example. 

In layman's words, Baolis are supposed to be a series of steps leading to a man-made hole, which functioned as a pond or well. Monsoons and Baolis have an intertwined relation. It was to capture this rainwater coming from the monsoon showers that these Baolis were derived. 
Baolis are step-wells, and have been designed with the aim to conserve rainwater, through the times antediluvian, especially in areas where the dry, arid inhospitable terrains not supportive. 

Transporting into the golden era, of ancient times, these subterranean edifices, were developed for the necessity of water for the human settlements, and till, today proudly depict the Advanced skill force of the bygone era. 

Agrasen ki BaoliCourtesy via Ar. Shanmukh Sai Odugu

Additional features: 
Aesthetic elements were designed around this pond for people to relax and do their chores. 
Baolis, as more than a step-well, a place for social integration. Sometimes, mosques were also built around these.  

Why steps were needed?
While people had the access to go down, as well, to these ponds for other purposes. 
As the level of water used, to decrease these skilled technicians would dig deeper and create new steps to reach to that height. With each new level, the older level used to become a place for interaction and relaxation for the people. 

How Baolis worked?
Water was usually drawn from the bucket and pulley system to cater to household and other needs. 

Oldest Baoli in India:
One of the most overlooked, Baoli which has been highlighted by many sources, is the Chand Baori of Rajasthan, which is also known to be the deepest Baoli, having a depth of approximately over 13 stories. 

Present Scenario: 
While a number of Baolis, seem to be in dilapidated condition due to negligence of the authorities, some organizations seem to be taking bold steps to work towards saving these cultural heritage. 

The unique underground architectural marvels called step-wells have been constructed in Gujarat since the ancient times. 
One such example can be illustrated below, with the Vastu Shilpa Foundation, a non-profit organization registered with the Registrar of Societies, Government of Gujarat. 
Talking about the evidently dry and arid, Kutch cultural memorial Smriti Van, was envisioned to restore and refurbish the ground water levels of this place, also replenishing the 13805 trees, as briefed by the client 108 reservoirs were designed across the area. These reservoirs seem to be a modernized version of the concept of Baolis which have been the traditional definition of step-wells. Also steps have been taken in upcoming times to protect these monuments, by the ASI such as for the Agrasen ki Baoli, located in the capital.

Photo credits: Vastu-Shilpa Foundation
Courtesy via Vastu Shilpa Foundation

Its a personal belief, that as an architect we must reflect upon the architectures of past, to  see how our wise ancestors, despite the lack of technical advancements, realized the important of resources such as air, water and managed to cultivate them with their ingenious skills. 

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