Last Sunday I along with a few of my friends traveled to Rajasthan in search of Angrez Bazaar in Bandiqui, Duasa District, about 200 km from Gurgaon.
We left early at 6 am on a cold and foggy morning. Surprisingly the fog on the way, was only on the right side of the NH8 and none on the left.
The drive was beautiful and our first stop was Abaneri Chand Baori (step well) about 12 km from Bandiqui. I had visited this place a couple of years ago when not many people were aware of its existence but this time we saw a lot of tourists.
The Abaneri village, about 95 km from Jaipur was originally known as Abha Nagari or “city of brightness”. It is now in ruins but the good news is that it has started attracting tourists from across the world.
Right next to the Baori, lies the Harshat Mata temple, which also is in ruins. The Chand Baori was built by King Chanda of Nikumbh dynasty during the 8th century as a dedication to Harshat Mata, the goddess of joy and happiness. It was built to conserve water and was used as a community resting place during that period. It is the oldest landmark of Rajasthan consisting of about 13 stories with 3500 narrow steps leading to the water, which makes it one of the deepest and largest step well in the country.
After spending some time there, we moved to Bandiqui, where another surprise was waiting for us, the old abandoned Church, built in Roman style with pink sandstone.
Bandiqui was chosen by the British, due to its location, between Alwar and Jaipur, to build India’s first Railway Junction in 1873. Along with the British, many Anglo-Indian families too moved there as in those days Railways was a big employer of the community. Once settled, the christian community decided to build a Church near the Railway station.
Slowly, the town lost its importance after other Railway junctions were set up, and the Christian pollution began to decline and the Church was neglected. The local miscreants took advantage and looted the windows, stained glasses and even Jesus’ statue.
In 2013, the Government of Rajasthan pledged to restore this and another Church in Ajmer but with Rajasthan having 1% of its population as Christians, it is not surprising that this has remained only a promise. Now with a right-wing government in power, you cannot expect much, though there is an urgent need to protect part of our heritage.
There are some beautiful Colonial Raj style bungalows too in Bandiqui, some of which are occupied by Government Officers but most are lying neglected. One Bungalow in particular was built-in 1898 and is simply beautiful to look at, and needs to be preserved as part of our Heritage.
On our way back, we stopped for tea at Neemrana Fort Kesroli and watched the beautiful sunset and with the sun going down, our short holiday also came to an end.