History & Culture

A rare medieval discovery

The recent discovery of a baoli or stepwell in Sector 12 of Dwarka has sprung a surprise for researchers. It is situated between a school and a residential society and is believed to date back to the Lodi times. What is now known as Dwarka was originally listed as Pappankalan by the DDA — the nomenclature being derived from the names of a group of villages. Some however think that Pappan was the name of a chieftain and others that it was the abbreviation for a housing scheme. Whatever be the truth, it now emerges that the area, where a large modern township has come up, was the location of many villages that had existed since the time of Raja Dhahji or Dahiya, a feudal ruler of a part of present-day Haryana.

The story (which is worth retelling) goes that one day the raja came to a Jat village where he stopped by a well to quench his thirst. Meanwhile a strong buffalo calf broke free from its owner and ran helter-skelter. Many tried to catch it but failed, until a Jatni, carrying two pitchers of water on her head, put her foot down on the rope trailing along the ground and stayed put despite the calf straining to get free. The raja thought that such a woman would be a fitting mother to a strong line of sons and managed to make her his wife, though she was already married. Thus the Dahiyas came into being. Some of them later became Muslims but retained the surname Dahiya.

Locality of lohars

The place where the baoli has been found was then known as Loharehri or the locality of lohars or ironsmiths. They were actually nomads from Rajputana who had migrated to Dahiya-land. A baoli built here probably during the time of Sikandar Lodi was perhaps used as much by the lohars as by wayfarers. There must have been other baolis too on the way to Alwar and Jaipur, but only the Loharehri one has come to light. During the Lodi period and before that too, baolis were built by rulers for the welfare of their subjects. Firoz Shah Tughlak built a number of baolis, the most famous one being near the Pir Ghaib monument on the Ridge. The Nizamuddin baoli was built in the time of Ghiyasuddin Tughlak in the 14th Century. Agrasen's baoli is also said to date back to the Lodi era. During Shah Jahan's reign baolis came up in Shajanhanabad and across the Yamuna. Many of them were abandoned as people migrated.

The deserted villages became a wilderness; so did Loharehri. At one time caravans of merchants must have passed that way and their drinking needs met by the baoli which fell into disuse when new roads were constructed. An example is Dhaula Kuan on the old Gurgaon road. It dates back to the time of Shah Alam. When a new road to Gurgaon came up, this well was isolated and later when it was re-discovered, people wondered why on earth such a deep well existed on a lonely stretch.

When Dwarka was inhabited by medieval people, it had its unsophisticated marketplaces and water supply system. In some future age people may wonder why they existed in oblivion, just as we are wondering now, why a 25-step baoli was built in a remote spot surrounded by a cluster of trees and thick vegetation. The poet was right when he wrote: “ Yaaron ne itni door basain hain bastian (buddies have made their abodes in such far-off places)!”



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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 6:51:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/a-rare-medieval-discovery/article2155898.ece

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