Abhaneri – A hidden jewel near Jaipur
I stumbled upon this jewel while researching for Bhangarh Fort. I was rather excited by how close this place was to the highway taking us from Agra to Jaipur. As you read in my Bhangarh blog things did not go as originally planned and as a result, I did a breakaway-from-family day trip to Bhangarh and Abhaneri – A hidden jewel near Jaipur.
The people originally named it Abha Nagri, which means the city of brightness. The current name Abhaneri is a distorted version of the original.
Step wells or ‘baoris’ is a unique concept within India. Abhaneri is known for its ‘baoris‘. Centuries ago, natives built these step wells in these arid region to provide for water throughout the year. Let me list down the must experience when in Abhaneri – A hidden jewel near Jaipur.
1) Abhaneri’s most popular stepwell – Chand Baori
Among the step wells of Abhaneri, this is the most known. Chand Baori is probably one of India’s deepest and largest step wells built over a thousand years ago.
Built during the 8th and 9th centuries, this gorgeous structure has 3,500 narrow steps in perfect symmetry.
It is a great example of geometry excellence of that era. Three flight of stairs descending into the earth with a palace on one side. The flight of stairs (13 storeys deep) and the palace are arranged in a square pattern and the water well lies at the center bottom. The royals used the palace at the bottom of the Baori to stay cool during the hot summers.
There is a large courtyard all around the stepwell.
Intricately carved sandstone artifacts and idols dating as far back as 10th century are housed in the covered areas around the courtyard. I was told that some of them have been shifted from the premises of Harshat Mata temple.
Public is not allowed entry to the step well as the steps are rather slippery. Anyway, I wouldn’t try it with kids in tow. I enjoyed the photography sessions from all around the baori. We had reached post lunch and it was extremely hot. The kids took solace in the shade of the corridor and enjoyed exploring the relics.
2) Harshat Mata Temple
Another popular place to visit in this hidden jewel near Jaipur – Abhaneri, is the 8th century temple of Harshat Mata.
Located opposite the colossal step well, it was a ritual to wash hands and feet here before visiting the temple. Harshat Mata is considered the goddess of joy and happiness. As per the beliefs, the goddess is always cheerful and imparts her glow and brightness (abha) to the whole village.
Substantially destroyed by Mahmud Ghazni in the 10th century, the remains of the temple still boast of architectural and sculptural splendor. Many of its pillars, columns, statues now lie scattered in the temple courtyard and in the corridors of the Chand Baori.
The temple is on a raised platform with unrestricted views of nearby areas.
3) A village of folk dances
While Abhaneri is considered a ruin village, locals believe that the blessings of Harshat Mata has helped them survive. This village is known for various Rajasthani folk dances which include Ghoomar, Kalbelia and Bhawai. Ghoomar is a dance of the Bhil tribe while Kalbelia is a dance performed by the women of Kalbelia tribe, who make their living by catching snakes and selling their venom. On the other hand, Bhawai is a dance performed as a ritual before Amba Mata or Mother Earth.
In conclusion, Abhaneri, a hidden jewel near Jaipur, boasts of a glorious past. Therefore, it attracts tourists from across the world. I would highly recommend a stopover here if you are a photography enthusiast or love the Indian heritage.
Also, every year Tourism Department of Rajasthan organizes a three day Abhaneri Festival in the month of Nov- Dec to promote heritage tourism. You can expect a 3-day extravaganza of music and performances by local artisans, camel cart rides and other fun activities.
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- You can visit Abhaneri as a day trip from Jaipur (95 kms in distance). It takes about 2 hours to reach here
- At a leisurely pace, you will take about 1 – 1.5 hours to see Chand Baori and Harshat Mata temple
- There is no entrance fee to either monument
- You should be equipped with good walking shoes, sun hat and sunscreen to avoid the harsh sun
- Carry enough water and keep yourself hydrated
- You can buy water and snacks from small shops at the entrance. Also gives opportunity to interact with locals !
- There is a washroom facility in the premise of the baori. Just beware of monkeys !
- Abhaneri can be combined with a visit to Bhangarh fort