Baoli through the ages
Baoli through the ages: The Badi Baoli is one amongst six large water reservoirs within the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park. These were no doubt built by the Qutb Shahi rulers to store water for irrigating the orchards planted at the tombs. In the 19th century, this ‘tank’ was provided with a formal structure including the arcade and in the proicess blocked natural water drainage into the structure. Under the immense pressure exerted by collected rainwater, the 19th century masonry collapsed in the summer of 2013 © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Collapse: Though the Badi Baoli had small portions of collapse even during the architectural documentation carried out in 2011, it was the most structurally well preserved of all the step-wells found with the complex. By 2013, the masonry below the arcade, had caved-in and the structure required urgent repairs and under-pinning. However soon after the MoU to commence conservation works was signed in January 2013 between the Department of Archaeology & Museums and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, vested interests approached the Wakf Tribunal and works were put on hold as a result of the Tribunal’s orders. The western façade of the baoli could not withstand the heavy rainfall experienced in Hyderabad in 2013 and in two successive storms, the entire western façade caved in. Following the complete collapse, the Wakf Tribunal permitted the Department of Archaeology & Museums to commence conservation works. Structural assessment of the baoli was carried out by Stand Engineers, a UK based firm familiar with historic structures-before restoration. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Preparing for Conservation
Preparing for Conservation: Following the collapse of the west side wall, over 20 lakh litres of water were pumped out and fed into adjoining step-wells. Then, water was continuously pumped out to allow the well to dry. The collapsed structure presented a major challenge with over 600 cum (equivalent to 100 truckloads) of masonry having collapsed. There was also significant risk of further collapse - onto craftsmen employed in the conservation effort. This process required over 4000 man days of work. At the first instance the water contained in the well was draining to adjoining baolis and following which, over several months, the collapsed stone blocks were removed from the bed of the baoli to be re-used in the repairs. Heavy stone blocks required mechanical equipment to lift out. The removal of the stone blocks revealed the friable condition of the rock and necessitated the laying of a concrete base on which the masonry could be built. This base was required to be built deep into the baoli base and resulted in a buttressed base to the western arcade. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Structural repairs
Structural repairs: Many would have considered the collapse at Badi Baoli permanent especially when the friable condition of the rock face was taken into consideration. On the strength of Indian building craft tradition coupled with advanced scientific analysis the repair commenced with rebuilding of the collapsed masonry in traditional lime mortar. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Reconstructing the Arcade
Reconstructing the Arcade: The arcade, though built only in the 19th century, provides the identity of the Badi Baoli and as such is the most culturally significant architectural element. Its reconstruction was thus a major objective of the conservation effort undertaken at the Badi Baoli by the Department of Archaeology – Aga Khan Trust for Culture team. Architectural and photographic documentation carried out prior to the collapse had provided required details to reconstruct the collapsed portions. Craftsmen – used standing portions of the structure – to understand and faithfully reconstruct the masonry details. The plaster patterns found on the parapet were also restored. On completing the reconstruction of the collapsed portion, the cement pointing on the eastern, northern and southern wall surfaces of the baoli was also removed and replaced with lime mortar – to allow any water ingress into the Baoli. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater Harvesting: In one monsoon season, over 33 lakh litres of water was collected in the baoli, which now also holds a large fish population. This resulted in the mapping of water flow within the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park, regarding earth where required and providing underground drains where required. A collection chamber created to the west of the baoli was drained into the baoli from beneath the arcade in order to ensure rainwater does not exert stress on the masonry. The collected water will be used for irrigation and conservation works for the duration of the year. To ensure water does not drown the newly reconstructed water, pumps were used to shift collected water to another baoli after the 33 lakh litres holding capacity was exhausted. Teracotta pipes discovered during archaeological investigations have revealed that a similar system was in place in the 16th century when the various baolis in the complex were interconnected. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture