While we were in India—or, more specifically, while we were traveling in Rajasthan—Nicola Twilley and I put stepwells very high on our list of things to go out of our way to see, having assembled a long list of architectural sites and sights to visit, from castles and towers to temples and, of course, these wells.
Being on something of an India binge the last week or two, I’ll try to get more of these photos up. These are extraordinary buildings, in purpose, structure, and ornamentation. Framing the everyday act of water-collection in such otherworldly architectural circumstances is a work of extravagant genius, yet seemingly one of a piece with the grandeur given to waterworks elsewhere.
From the old brick sewers of London—beautifully sculpted hallways for water, all smooth knots and vortices below the city—to the strangely kitsch Greek columns of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, and even the sprawling labyrinth of fountains and spigots that distribute water throughout Rome, hydrological infrastructure inspires and deserves these otherwise functionally unnecessary acts of monumental design.
So the Raniji ki Baori is roughly 150 feet deep. A central stairway takes visitors down to the well itself, passing beneath an archway home to bats.
However, when you get down to the bottom of the staircase and you peer into the deep pit where fresh water was once collected, the dilapidated state of the facilities become instantly and sadly visible. The steps are covered in guano, dust, and litter. Pieces of broken pipe (or collapsed scaffolding) extend from the walls.
These photos—like those of Chand Baori—were taken during a trip to India earlier this year.
These, too, are available in slightly larger sizes if you open them in a new window.