Step back in time at Neemrana’s superb stepwell
Standing in the deepest point of the stepwell at Neemrana is a chilling and awe-inspiring experience. Chilling because the air here, 200 feet below the surface, is 10 degrees cooler than at desert level. And the sheer scale of human imagination, ingenuity and effort required to construct this marvel is overwhelming.
From the dark claustrophobic pit where I stand, nine levels rise to ground level, each arcaded with Rajput arches and stone chhajas angled downwards to direct the monsoon’s precious waters into the well. The effect is like a massive, magnificent underground fortress. And yet, from ground level it is all but invisible.
Like many great public works, the stepwell was built during a time of crisis. In the 1740s, Alwar district suffered a terrible three-year drought, which threatened to drive Neemrana’s inhabitants away in search of work and water. Not wishing to leave, they suggested to Neemrana’s ruling Raja, Maha Singh Dev Chauhan, that they build the stepwell in return for food and shelter.
It took nine years to finish the nine storeys. There are cool underground rooms set into the upper levels of the stepwell where traders – travelling to Afghanistan along a branch of the Silk Route – would have stayed. They paid tribute to the Raja and in return he offered them a room for the night.
These days, it’s more comfortable to stay in Neemrana Fort-Palace. And while the stepwell no longer supplies water to the surrounding district, it is a must-see attraction on any trip to Neemrana. From the Fort-Palace, it’s a 5-minute drive, a 15-minute camel ride or a 20-minute walk. Not much effort compared to the nine years of non-stop human labour it took to create this masterpiece.
Book in to stay at Neemrana Fort-Palace: www.neemranahotels.com
Book in to fly high over Neemrana on our zip line tour: www.flyingfox.asia