Bansilalpet stepwell on path of resurrection

By Serish Nanisetti
The Bansilalpet stepwell which is being cleaned as part of a restoration project. (Source: The Hindu)

Perhaps after decades, the carved idol inside a grotto of the Bansilalpet stepwell was worshipped on Friday. The carving of Ganesh and that of Hanuman have been exposed as the well is being restored by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in tandem with The Rainwater Project.

The stepwell in Bansilalpet was one of the sources of water for Gandhi Hospital. “The well went into disuse in the early 80s after a few people committed suicide. When we began restoration, there was a talk about filling it up and turn it into a parking lot. That’s when we stepped in,” says Kalpana Ramesh, who is part of the restoration effort.

“We have carted out nearly 500 tonnes of debris from it. According to the residents, this is 60 feet deep and we have reached only 35 feet,” said a GHMC worker supervising the clean up.

“Over the past one month, 150 trucks have carted the debris. It would be humanly impossible to clean up with human labour and that’s why we deployed an earthmover,” said the GHMC supervisor.

The debris being removed included building waste, film reels, plastic, discarded furniture, used tyres and electrical waste. The stone gallery on the right side of the entrance has collapsed and scaffoldings have been erected on the left gallery.

At a higher level, the corbels show horses and coiled snakes.

“When I first visited this place only the hint of the arches was visible. Initially, the GHMC did the clean-up manually. The trash was packed under the arches and inside the galleries,” says Kalpana Ramesh of The Rainwater Project.

“This well is between the Nalla Pochamma and Yerra Pochamma Temple. Water from this well used to be drawn for the ablution of the goddesses,” says Parvathamma, who grew up in the area and her in-laws house overlooks the well. “Water from the well was supplied to Gandhi Hospital and other residential areas. This area was developed by Seth Bansilal to house people who lost properties during road widening,” informs Parvathamma.

The colony was developed by Seth Bansilal, a wealthy benefactor of his era, around the stepwell and a playground with small houses surrounding it in one part of Bhoiguda village. Some of the houses still carry the numbering that was created at that time. Then the area got rechristened as Bansilalpet. Even as late as 2003, the colony retained its basic structure. In January 1938, when the British Viceroy Linlithgow visited Hyderabad, he made it a point to visit the Bansilalpet Model Village. Linlithgow was received by among others Seth Pannalal Bansilal and Seth Goverdhan Lal Bansilal, the sons of Seth Bansilal. Now the grand ceremonial entrance is a tawdry opening occupied by sundry shops selling pan, tea and snacks. The only marker is the foundation stone that was laid by a British Resident on February 13, 1933.

According to an initial study by historians, the well may predate the construction of the residential colony by Seth Bansilal. “We need to know the full structure of the well and the construction style. We cannot reach a conclusion just by looking at the superficial structure,” said an architectural historian researching the project.


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