Hyderabad: When architect Kalpana Ramesh took up the project to restore the Bansilalpet stepwell or baoli, it was filled with garbage and debris. The environmentalist, known as a ‘water warrior’, had a huge task at hand, given that the historic stepwell is bang in the middle of a middle-class locality, laced with its own challenges.
That was nine months ago. Cut to December 2022, Kalpana and her team have managed to restore and rebuild the Bansilalpet stepwell in a spectacular fashion. The holistic approach she took also included an interpretation centre, an amphitheater, and a tourism plaza, all of which have been built and attached to the stepwell. “We are also looking to start a cafe in here as well to encourage artists and build a community,” she said.
Hyderabad and the state government’s track record in saving its heritage sites has not always been great. However, the renewed Bansilalpet stepwell and restoration of other important sites like the British Residency and the Qutb Shahi tombs have brought a much-needed change in both attitudes and a reprieve for the city.
The Bansilalpet stepwell, situated in Secunderabad, and close to other monuments like the James Street police station, will be inaugurated today at 5 pm formally. The restoration project might even go on to become a good example of how historic sites can be saved.
Kalpana, who runs the Rainwater Project, had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Telangana government to restore the stepwell in 2021. With over two decades of experience as an interior architect and designer she is also looking to create an experience for citizens, to keep the project sustainable.
Well was originally built for a model village
Kalpana and her team restored the Bansilalpet stepwell in such a way that it is now a matter of pride for the locals there. With six levels, the baoli was reworked on with designs from the Kakatiya period. The exact age of the stepwell is however not known.
The stepwell was historically part of a garden of tamarind and palmyra trees during the British period. About a century ago, the then Resident TH Keyesin the 1930s developed a well-planned model village around it. The whole thing was then funded by Seth Bansilal. Secunderabad, named after Hyderabad’s third Nizam Sikander Jah (1803-26), was founded in 1806 after the British East India Company’s troops were asked to move out of the city to a cantonment.
The cantonment came to be called as Secunderabad. The previous or second Nizam (1762-1803) had in 1798 signed the Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance with the British, based on which the the latter were allowed to formally settle and establish themselves here in the Hyderabad state. The Nizams were originally Mughal-appointed governors who took up the position since 1724. Hyderabad was founded in 1591 by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah in 1591.