Step Wells were integral part of Indian villages before the British imposed their way discarding the need of such water reservoirs and belittling the societal functioning of the villages. Some of the step-wells still exist but are not in use like Agrasen ki Baoli (New Delhi), Rani ki vav (Patan, Gujarat), Chand Baori in Abhaneri (near Jaipur, Rajasthan), Pushkarani (Hampi, Karnataka).
Abhaneri (originally called Abhanagari meaning “City of brightness”) is a village 95 km from Jaipur(Rajasthan) on Jaipur -Agra road. The city was established in 8th century by the king “Samrat Mihir Bhoj”. The city is in ruins but the splendid architecture of the times survives in the Chand Baori. This is one of the oldest, largest and deepest step well in India with 3500 steps descending 20 meters down (13 stories)to reach the collected water. The narrow and symmetrical steps are along the three sides of this large square water reservoir. The fourth side has corridors, pavilions and rooms for the royal couple with stage for dance performances.
Besides being large tanks for rain water harvesting, these step-wells were community gathering places during festivals, cool retreats for travelers, villagers and king.
Chand baori is located next to temple of ‘ Harshat Mata Goddess’ who for locals is the goddess of joy, happiness and brightness. Razed by some Muslim invaders, some defaced sculptures of gods and goddesses still exist along with broken parts of the temple.