A new lease for a grand old landmark

In full swing: Work in progress at Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Baoli in New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Madhur Tankha

Conservation work on at historic Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Baoli

NEW DELHI: The Archaeological Survey of India and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture have undertaken significant conservation work at the historic Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Baoli in South Delhi ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the Capital.

Built by Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in 1321-1322, the baoli’s water is considered holy by millions of pilgrims.

Talking to media persons on the steps of the ancient baoli, ASI Director-General K. N. Shrivastava said on Thursday: “The baoli is the only stepped well in Delhi that still contains water fed by several underwater springs. The quality of water is so pure that you can drink it. During conservation work a small passage leading from the Dargah to the baoli, possibly used by the Saint himself, was discovered 10 to 15 days ago. Although the Saint was residing at Chillgah Khan, during summers when the temperatures shot up, he used to spend some time here during the day. Devotees drink the water considering it nectar. However, the water was contaminated because of leaks in the sewage lines. These lines have now been repaired.”

Sufficient funds

Stating that most of the filth had been removed from the baoli by the ASI, Mr. Shrivastava said: “The whole place will be restored to its original glory. We have undertaken the work now because the ASI is not facing any resource problem and corporate houses are helping us. The work was started six months ago and will take another six months to complete. The project cost works out to about Rs.1 crore.”

Mr. Shrivastava said the ASI would spend about Rs.30 crore sprucing up 46 monuments in Delhi before the Commonwealth Games. “Although the baoli is not included in these structures, it will be a major attraction during the Games,” he added.

Caretaker Khwaja Ahmed Nizami expressed satisfaction over the work carried out by the ASI and AKTC besides the karigars. “Thankfully no damage has been done to the 800-year-old baoli and all the springs are intact,” he said.

The Khwaja said the baoli was constructed around the same time that Ghiyath-ud-Din Tughluq was engaged in building Tughlakabad. “The emperor had prohibited karigars from working elsewhere. However, the karigars worked for the Saint at night.”

Families to be rehabilitated

Conservation work at the baoli could commence only after the upper dwelling unit was demolished as it was too dangerous to work beneath. For the 18 families occupying the terrace of the baoli, alternate plots are being provided by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The AKTC will bear the relocation costs. As part of the rehabilitation package, local non-government organisations will be involved in improving the living standards of the families.

For the first time, the baoli has been cleared of all filth to its original depth of 80 feet below the ground level. The conservation work at the baoli is being carried out as part of “Humayun’s Tomb – Sunder Nursery – Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal” project. The ASI and the AKTC are working in partnership with the Central Public Works Department, the MCD and the Aga Khan Foundation on the ongoing project that has conservation, environmental development and socio-economic development as its objectives.