NEW DELHI: Intermittent water seepage from the adjoining residential dwellings and ‘brutish’ construction at the south-western corner of the 14th-century Baoli (stepwell) at Nizamuddin are posing threat to this historic site, known for its water with ‘mystic healing properties’ for seven centuries.
Calling for immediate intervention, experts and locals said the portion of the wall in the west is in a dilapidated state and leakage might cause severe damage or lead to its collapse.
“Water from residential quarters, which have come up at Lal Chaubara is damaging the baoli wall. If the issue is not addressed, the portion of the wall and house above may collapse resulting in casualties. Authorities should remove encroachments — construction that has come up at adjoining ancient tombs in the last 10-15 years,” said Ratish Nanda, heritage conservationist and CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
The trust has been restoring monuments and historical buildings in Humayun’s tomb complex and Nizamuddin Basti in association with the Archaeological Survey of India since 1997.
The Baoli, a rubble masonry edifice made of local dressing stone (Delhi quartzite) is an ASI-protected site.
Modern-day constructions added in recent decades along the western wall have also overshadowed a cluster of establishments — Chini Ka Burj or Rouza, Tomb of Bibi Fatima and Zuhra Agha. Lal Chaubara and Bai Kodaldai’s Tomb are damaged beyond recognition.
Locals complained that water leakage from houses had caused wall bulging, therefore the structure appeared to be in danger.
The stepwell was built during the lifetime of most revered Sufi-saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in 1321-22.
According to a book, ‘Delhi Heritage Top 10 Baolis’ by Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, the saint himself removed the mud with hands from the site.
Nazim Nizami, the Sajjada Nashin (hereditary administrators) of the shrine, said he did not know the damage as the complex has been closed since March due to lockdown. “I haven’t been to Baoli for more than two months.
"Repairing of a portion of the wall was being done near its gates, which was stopped due to lockdown. Work will resume soon,” he said.
Last time, major conservation work of the stepwell was carried out was in 2008 by AKTC when portions of the wall collapsed for similar reasons.
The ASI officials said the issue would be examined.
“AKTC had been doing conservation of the structures in the area. If the trust doesn’t plan to initiate repair, the survey will restore the wall,” said an official.
However, Gunjan Srivastava, superintending archaeologist, ASI (Delhi circle) didn’t respond to multiple calls and text messages.
Tomb of Bai Kodaldai
It was constructed by Sher Shah Suri in 1541. She was the daughter of one Mulayam Khan. According to “List of Muhammadan And Hindu Monuments Vol.2 in Delhi”, no further nformation is available about the Kadaldai.
Chini ka Burj or Rouza (mosque)
Its internal walls were ornamented with coloured decoration and plaster.
Tomb of Bibi Fatima and Zuhra Agha
Bibi Fatima was considered to have been a pious woman celebrated for her devoutness. She was a contemporary of Baba Farid ShakarGanj the spiritual guide of Nizamuddin Auliya.