Here’s an archaeological wonder in Rajasthan, India you won’t find in any guidebooks. In the small ancient village of Abhaneri is one of India’s oldest and deepest step-wells, Chanda Baodi and the eighth century Harshat Mata Hindu temple.
Step-wells, unique to India, were used as a royal baths, reservoirs and provided respite from the summer heat. A Rajput king is believed to have built Chanda Baodi, which has separate his and hers royal bathrooms. Sun shaded verandahs, which you can enter, overlook what must be thousands of criss-crossing steep steps patterned like upside down Vs which descend deep into the abyss of the well.
The temple, adjacent to the step-well which was also used for ritual bathing before worshipping, is still active and devoted to the goddess Durga. Remains of intricate stone carvings of Hindu deities are found throughout the well area and as part of the temple structure. The village has contributed many other sculptures to museums in nearby Jaipur.
Excavation of the site began in 1955 and the step-well and temple were open to the public in 1960 under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. But Abhaneri is only just slowly finding its way on travelers’ radar screens in recent years. It still offers the rare opportunity to sample a stunning architectural antiquity without the crowds. There were no souvenir stands or vendors of any sort when I was there earlier this year.
The village is located 90 kilometers from Jaipur off the Jaipur-Agra highway near Bandikui, a convenient detour off the classic Golden Triangle route--Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.
The site is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week except major holidays. There is no entry fee.