Gandhak Ki Baoli is situated in Mehrauli Village Complex in South Delhi and just approximately 100 metres from the Tomb of Adham Khan. It is easily accessible by local transport and supposed to be the largest step-well ever built in Delhi.
The name, ‘Gandhak’ means sulphur as the water of the well smelt like it and ‘Baoli’ means ‘A Well with steps’ was constructed during the rule of Emperor Iltutmish who was also the founder of the slave dynasty. Shams-ud-din Iltutmish aka Altamash was the third Turkic Emperor of the Delhi Sultanate who ruled between 1211 and 1236. Earlier, he was a slave of Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak who became the Sultan’s close confidante. He was also promoted to the rank of a lieutenant in the Army and later married the Sultan’s daughter. After becoming the Sultan’s son-in-law, Iltutmish was promoted to the rank of a Governor and appointed in Badaun. He killed Aram Shah who was the successor to Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak and captured the Delhi Sultanate Throne where he ruled up till his death on 1st May 1236. He also attacked Ujjain in 1235 and destroyed numerous Temples including Maha Kala Temple.
During his reign, Sultan Iltutmish, had the ‘Hauz-i-Shamsi’, a water tank or reservoir built in 1230 AD within the Mehrauli complex just beside the ‘Jahaz Mahal’ extensively used as a summer retreat by the subsequent Mughal Emperors. He also had Sultan Ghari built in 1231 AD and a Tomb for his eldest son, Prince Nasir-ud-din Mahmud known to be the first Islamic Tomb that was built in Delhi.
Iltutmish had built ‘Gandhak Ki Baoli’ for Khwaja Sayed Muhammad Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki who was a well renowned Sufi Saint during his reign who had greatly inspired the Sultan through his Islamic teachings. Saint Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki was born in 1173 AD and became very popular as a Sufi Mystic while he also was the only Scholar who established and initiated the responsibility to spread the ‘Order of Chishti’ from Delhi to other parts of India which was initially confined only to Nagaur and Ajmer. He contributed to developing traditional ideas of charity and universal brotherhood within and through this Order. He also became an important figure in showcasing Sufism and Islamic teachings through various Sufi movements in India from the 13th to the 14th Century which attracted numerous people and gave a different dimension to Islam as a religion in India. Saint Bakhtiar Kaki’s Shrine and Darbar lies in Mehrauli in South Delhi and every year, in autumn, the ‘Festival of Flower Sellers’ or ‘Phoolwaron Ki Sair’, which originated in 1812, is celebrated by offering a bed of flowers on the Sufi Saint’s Dargah and the Yogmaya Hindu Temple to bridge the gap between Islam and Hindu followers and hence promote secularism.
Gandhak Ki Baoli is seen in the shape of a huge five tiered structure which included a circular shaped well on its southern side. This well was once famous amongst the local inhabitants used as a sports venue for diving and swimming but unfortunately, this historical and ancient monument is in a neglected state and has dried up through the years. Despite this fact, the Baoli is still the largest well ever seen in Delhi and the absence of water allows all tourists to view and admire the architecture and intricate design of the Baoli to the fullest.
Tourists can visit this Baoli on all days with no entry fee or photography charges. However, just as a precautionary note, do ensure to be extra careful when viewing Gandhak Ki Baoli from the Southern end as the well is the deepest at this point and since there is no water or a protective barrier and the bottom most surface of the ground is very uneven, a fall from this height can prove to be very fatal.
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