The ‘mysterious’ step-well at Lonar

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. ~ Lawrence Block

I first saw the step-well on my way to the hotel from Lonar bus stand from the auto rickshaw.

A sunken structure in black basalt, I think I was lucky to notice it in the first place as the step-well is not on the road itself, but a little inside. I also think I noticed it because of the sudden break between the rather drab looking houses on the road and because it was so different from everything around it. From the quick look that I had in a passing rickshaw, I guessed it to be a water body of some sort. Maybe a step-well or at least an old  water tank?

I immediately asked the driver of the auto rickshaw I was travelling in. “What’s that place we passed just now?”

“What place?”

“The place with the black coloured stone and the one that looks really old.” (Yeah, I know, a very clever and lucid description indeed :-P).

“That thing? It’s a water tank. Nobody uses it or goes there.” These words were uttered with such a tone of finality that I didn’t dare ask him anything more.

Later that evening, after a day spent exploring Lonar, I told the guide about the step-well  / water tank that I had seen earlier that day. The guide was equally dismissive saying that it was a broken down structure, and not really interesting and why should I want to see something as boring as that?

That did it. The word “boring”. I decided that I wouldn’t leave Lonar till I had paid a visit to the step-well / water tank. So next morning, before I left for Aurangabad (my next destination), that’s what I did.

And the first thing I realised when I saw it is that it was not a water tank, but a step-well. Not an elaborate one, but a step-well nevertheless.

Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav

The step-well had a wire fencing all around and it had been cut in a couple of places allowing me access. Beyond the fence, the step-well was surrounded by single-storeyed houses. The step-well was not very large and had steps leading down to the water from three sides. The fourth side had a rather ornate balcony / viewing gallery with a large, but empty niche making me wonder if there was an idol placed for worship sometime in the past. All around the walls of the step-well were niches at regular intervals, once again empty.

The water was a dark mossy green and I couldn’t t make out how deep the well was or how many steps there were below the 10 exposed ones. In the absence of any information board at the step-well, I could only guess.

Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav
While the fence cannot be seen, you can see the houses located beyond the step-well
Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav
The balcony or viewing gallery with the large niche behind it
Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav
One of the empty wall niches
Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav
The steps in the centre left of the photograph leads to a lane that connects with the road I first saw the step-well for the first time
Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi Barav
A broken down portion of the step-well

There was no one else at the step-well and the few locals who passed by looked at me curiously. When I called out to them asking if they knew what the step-well was called, they said nothing and walked away. I left after some time happy to have visited the step-well, but none the wiser for having visited it.

Lonar, Maharashtra, Stepwell, water tank, Ancient, Limbi BaravWhen I got into the hired cab that would take me to Aurangabad, the driver had a lot to say about the step-well. Which was surprising considering he had nothing to say when I made the request to stop at the step-well when he picked me up from the hotel. In fact, he didn’t even know where the step-well was; I had to tell him the location !

The step-well’s “story” that the driver, a native of Lonar, told me was quite fascinating, though typical and clichéd: How the step-well had gold and other treasures buried in it and how it was haunted by the spirits of those who had kept it in the step-well. How anybody who attempted to remove the treasure brought bad luck on themselves. How even visiting it brought bad luck.

At this point I saw the driver looking rather slyly at me. I ignored the look and instead asked, “How old is this step-well?”

“Very old, Madam. Verrry old,” he drawled.

“How old?” I asked again.

“Must be 50-60 years. Maximum 70 years old. It can’t be older than that,” he said confidently.

No, I’ve not missed a zero or two here. The driver really thought that the step-well was only a few decades old ! While I’m no expert, I can say that the step-well was easily a few centuries old.

Everything about it seemed to be a mystery — its name, its origins, its age, its purpose…That’s one of the reason’s I decided to title this post the “mysterious” step-well of Lonar. 🙂


Notes:

  1. Location: If you’re travelling from Lonar Bus Stand towards the MTDC Resort on the State Highway 171, also known as Loni Road look out right after the 1 km mark. When you see a sunken structure built from the local black basalt, stop and explore the step-well.  It appears rather suddenly, so keep a look out for it.
  2. Identification: Bugdane Sir (about whom I’ve talked about in my previous post) has mentioned in his booklet on Lonar that this step-well is the Limbi Barav, which belongs to the Yadava period and was used for community baths. The accompanying picture is too grainy and fuzzy for me to be able to confirm this.

11 thoughts on “The ‘mysterious’ step-well at Lonar

  1. interesting, Sudha! and I certainly did not see this… may also be because i arrived at lonar late in the evening, and it was dark.. and when we left i was in a hurry to get a bus so i could manage to catch my train 😛 as for seeing it during the walk,i was too tired 😦 but its beautiful. if i ever go again, will surely look out for it!!

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    1. You would not have seen this during your walk, Anuradha as this is nowhere near the Lonar Crater Lake; this is in Lonar town. Though visible from the road that leads to the MTDC resort, you wouldn’t have seen it in the dark. So there’s only one thing left to do, go back to Lonar for another visit. 😀

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  2. Nice find. And it is really an irritating situation when we find locals are completely unaware of any details of such places. Some places grow as tourist spot. Everything else lies in complete ignorance.

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    1. Welcome here, Sumit. Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting.

      One can’t really blame the locals for their disinterest or being unaware as they are never involved when tourist spots are being marketed for well, tourists. The premise is that outsiders will be interested, but not the locals. In my opinion, this is the worst way to go about.

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  3. Interesting. These are places like to discover but guides etc rarely care to mention them. I guess they think we need some fancy shopping mall or whatever…
    I am intrigued by the stepping well. Did you try googling a bit in hindi?
    The architecture does look old but it’s hard to say. Does it rain there a lots during the monsoon? I wonder because of the stone shading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Helene, Welcome to “My Favourite Things”and thank you very much for stopping by and commenting. I hope that you’ll keep visiting. 🙂

      Lonar receives moderate rainfall in the sense that there is never any danger of flooding or drought. It has gone through dry periods in the past, but never extreme conditions like the neighbouring Vidarbha region.

      I did try a Google search to find out more about the stepwell and its possible that this is the Limbi Barav that was built by the Yadavas of Deogiri or present day Daulatabad. This would make date the step well to the 12th or 13th century. But without any concrete information it could be anybody’s guess.

      As for guides, what can one say? They are only interested in showing what they want the average tourist to see. This has been my experience wherever I have travelled in India or elsewhere.

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  4. Will definitely add it to my wish list along with the Lonar crater and other temples in this area. Thanks for sharing your pictures and views on this mysterious step well/tank. Shall try to find out from ASI about it before I go there.

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    1. Aadil, Lonar is a fascinating place and apparently there are other stepwells too. I got to know of the others only much later. When you do visit Lonar, do try and visit the others.

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