Today we’re in the middle of nowhere, way off the beaten path to see a site the size of an Egyptian pyramid, only it’s not immediately noticeable because it’s an inverted pyramid with its base at ground level. The massive, impressive structure called the Chand Baori is an ancient water well in the dry region of India, in the state of Rajasthan, located in the village of Abhaneri, about one hour outside Jaipur on the road to Agra.
Most tourists to India visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal located there. But they do it on a day trip from Delhi, so they never pass this area. If you travel by road between Agra and Jaipur, Chand Baori is a must-stop place. You know you’re forging new ground when the place isn’t even mentioned in my very popular guidebook. I found it courtesy of a live guide.
As you approach Abhaneri, a very rural place, you see people walking camels, a common animal here in this dry desert-like region. The aroma of manure is in the air, as the people here stack their roofs with cow patties to dry them. They are then used as cooking fuel. Indians do not eat beef, but they take full advantage of all cows have to offer otherwise.
Built by King Chanda of the dynasty that ruled around 800 A.D., Chand Baori is a well with a step structure that allows people to climb down into it and return. It’s approximately 100 feet deep, so deep, in fact, that the air temperature at its base is 5-6 degrees cooler than at the top of the well. The king built a resting room on the side of the well for the royal family to use for rest during periods of intense heat. Along the well wall today is a museum-quality display of ancient stones with carvings from the period. Unless you knew to look for it, however, from the street level it doesn’t appear that there is anything of interest to see here.
Next to the well is an ancient temple, now in ruins, the Harshat Mata Temple. You can climb to the top of the ruins to see what is left of the sanctuary and to get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding desolate area. Although in disrepair, the temple is still used for Hindi prayer. You need to remove your shoes to walk around. Expect to end up with very soiled feet or socks, as the area is mostly dry soil and very dusty. Broken rocks all around make this a somewhat treacherous area to walk. Proceed with caution.
Currently there is no charge to visit these two sites, but as more tourists come, it is certain to be fenced off by the Indian tourism authorities and open only upon paying a fee. These sites are given four stars by Trip Advisor and should be included on your itinerary if you are in the area.
For a very exotic adventure while in this area, visit the website aagmanindia.com/Camp/Abhaneri_Village.aspx to learn about a high end resort here. Tucked away down a dusty dirt road in this off-the-beaten-path village, the resort has no signs to direct you there. You just have to know. Trip Advisor gives the place a five-star rating. As you approach you get a whiff of the cow patties drying on the nearby roofs. They have camel rides and other exotic safari-like experiences. Your room is a safari-like tent with plumbing (still, don’t drink the water). The grounds are well manicured.
I stopped at this “resort” for lunch during my visit and found the food to be quite good. I was taken there by a local, and after eating I searched for the “front desk.” I could never find one. They have to know you’re coming and will greet you at the entrance. To find a place like this tucked away in a remote desert village like Abhaneri is quite unusual.
Staying there would certainly be something you’d never forget. It is the definition of the word glamping (glamour camping).