One of the best things about travelling off the beaten path is that a journey never gets over at destinations. There is the possibility of chancing upon many gems that may be less explored, if not fully unexplored. Thanks to a mid-week getaway to Alwar curated by Sumit Singh Jamwal of Escape Route (www.escaperoute.co.in), a travel enterprise to aid your escape from monotony, we discovered a hidden destination, so far nearly buried in the depths of the earth (literally) right off Neemrana Fort.
The hamlet of Neemrana is more famous for its 15th century fort-palace (now a heritage hotel). But the Neemrana ki Baoli, or step well is a 16th century resting place to straighten your legs and dig into savoury pyaaz kachoris en route wherever it is that you are going.
Traditionally baolis in Rajasthan were built as serais or resting places for travellers – which is why they also served the purpose of water bodies in the desert. While there was no (surprisingly) detailing by way of a board or signage detailing its history, I got chatting to locals around and was fascinated by the story.
I was told that this Baoli was built perhaps in early 1700s by Thakur Janak Singh, a local Chauhan ruler to help residents who were facing a famine. It was his Queen who chose the place and also planted several trees around the baoli. The baoli is nine storeys deep and each floor is about 20 feet in height! So you can imagine the depth of the stunning stepwell – straight out of folklore.
There isn’t any entry ticket, so we just parked the car on the highway (if you can call it that) went inside. The path, which is on the entry level is the ‘ground floor’ of the baoli, and from here one could peep down till upto the sixth floor in the ground beneath one’s feet. The baoli must have been really effective against the heat of the desert back in the day because even now the temperature on the third floor was 5 degrees cooler than on its ground-level floor. Visitors descend nearly 800 steps to reach the sub-ground level that earlier had water, but years of neglect has only left silt deposits.
The several rose-ringed parakeets frolicking in and around the baoli complex, and atop the lone neem tree at its entrance seemed to allude to a romantic past of this hidden treasure.
Do yourselves a favour, stopover at the baoli – it is a buried milestone that will rejuvenate you for the journey ahead!
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh