Saturday, April 14, 2018

The forgotten Stepwell of Lingampet in Telangana

Sitting in the 100 year old home of my grandfather's sister in my ancestral village,I gazed at the wrinkled lines on her face as she excitedly told me a tale about the days gone by. I was in Lingampet,a small village in Telangana, with my dad to spend the weekend.We used to spend our holidays here during our childhood. All our cousins would be there too and the house resonated with the festivities and noise of the family. But as we grew up the visits declined and after the death of my grandparents the visits totally dried up. Our home there, lay empty save for the occasional visits by my dad's brothers.Last weekend I decided to spend the days there and as I am a history fan I thought of meeting up old timers and extracting some info about the history of the village and of our family itself.

So we paid a visit to my grandather's sister. As the conversation turned from present day to the past her husband casually mentioned about an old stepwell. He mentioned that the local queen long ago used to arrive there with all her cavalcade which included elephants. This piqued my interest and after returning to home I asked my dad if we could make a visit there the next day. He agreed to take me there if we start early the next day.

And so we did.Early morning we reached the place which is just opposite to the police station on the main road. The weather was cool and there was no sign of the sun. We started off on our walk among the barren land lying on one side of the Kamareddy road. Here we had to search for a bit as even my dad was coming here after a long time. At one point we spotted a long boundary wall. We assumed that to be the well and quickly reached there but to our dismay it was just a wall with nothing on the other side. We moved along to check out another low wall a little bit ahead. With my dad ahead I followed him taking pics of the surrounding walls. A couple of minutes later my dad exclaimed with delight that he had spotted the well. I quickened my steps and followed him.Reaching there I saw a wall totally covered with shrubs and foliage. In a clearing between the foliage I finally got a good view of the well. It was majestic.Better than anything I expected. From the clearing I could look down at 6 arches on the opposite side.Built of rocks it looked pretty stable and solid. We couldn't see more of the well, so we hurried along the perimeter looking for a way in. All the sides were covered by the trees and shrubs. At last we found a way in. My father led the way down. Before descending he cautioned me not to come down unless he specifically asks me too. This took me right back to my childhood when dad used to take us around to old monuments and structures and gave us the same instructions. It was a long time since I heard them.

We descended through the dusty and cob web filled steps. They opened in one corner of the well. The sight was spectacular. Like the ruins of a castle, the walls looked beautiful. As I made sense of the structure I found that we were on level 1, below which extended 3 more levels. The base was in the fifth level. The last level was filled with so much garbage on the surface that it was difficult to tell if there was water below or if it was all only garbage. The layout of the well was something like this. At one side, which was the entrance there was gradual slope from the ground level leading to the well. This was all broken up with only the stones remaining scattered all over.. Just at the end of this slope are three grand arches of almost 5 mtrs height. These arches overlook the well. On the opposite side were six arches, three above and three below offering an excellent place to sit and view the proceedings below. The other two sides were split into the 5 levels that I mentioned before. The whole structure still looked stable and we were tempted to explore further but we stayed put in our position. Reason being that the place was covered with decaying leaves and it was very slippery. It was a risk not worth taking.

At the top of the arches near the entrance we spotted some carvings on the wall.They were partly covered by the foliage and I couldn't get a clear picture. There was a lady saluting someone or something. Then there were some animals and other designs of which I couldn't make much sense.I clicked some pics of the carvings as I intend to find out more about them.I wonder who built this well and why. Stepwells are rare in south of India and even rarer in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The only other stepwell I saw is in the Qutub Shahi Tombs complex in Hyderabad.

Soon we clambered back to the top and left after taking some more pics. This place in my opinion has immense potential for a tourist spot. All that needs to be done is clean it up and maybe build a small park around it.

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