Chand Baori and the Stepwells of India

Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)

Plaque Explaining Some Details of the Chand Baori Stepwell

Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!

Chand Baori Stepwell Surrounding and Protecting a Pond

However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.

Dozens of recessed rooms provide shade from the intense summer heat
at Chand Baori Stepwell

The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.

Harshat Mata Temple Adjacent to Chand Baori Stepwell

Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.

Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!

Tour guide explaining the significance of various pieces of artwork at Chand Baori

Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!

Closeup of the pond at the bottom of the Chand Baori Stepwell

It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.

I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”

But, I was mistaken!

Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!

Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.

The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?

I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Tourists and Worshipers Visiting Harshat Mata Temple,
dedicated to the goddess of Joy and Happiness

He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Chand Baori Stepwell in Abanderi, India

Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God,
and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

“Oh! What a Crowd!!”

Have you ever been at the bedside of someone you loved when they passed from this earth to the next? I heard a wonderful story recently about the last words of a dear friend’s father. Sue shared this account while we were grieving the fresh loss of her father-in-law, who was also every bit a father to her. Sue’s father-in-law was very elderly and infirm by the time I knew him, so it was a special treat to hear stories from his life at his recent memorial service. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a veteran, a hunter, and a stellar fisherman. Best of all, he was a man of faith and grace. It was fun to watch the slide show of his life and realize how much my friend’s husband looked like his father…and was like his father in many ways. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bob without receiving a big, warm bear hug. He always has a mischievous grin too…like he’s just dreaming up how to tease Alan. Bob always makes you laugh!For example, Bob’s father graduated to glory just a few days before their family was scheduled to leave on a two-week vacation to the Caribbean, and one of his last jokes with his dad before he passed was that after all the years of Bob’s giving his father grief, his dad was going to get him back by dying at the wrong time and ruining Bob’s long-awaited family vacation. (He didn’t, BTW; he died at “the perfect” time!) If you are aghast by that kind of humor, know that this was not malicious teasing, this is a beautiful indication of how at peace Bob and his dad were with each other, and how deep and sure his father’s faith was that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (gleaned but not quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:8). Bob and his dad had a rare and wonderful relationship! But, the story that has stayed with me the longest was Sue’s account of her father’s last words. He was also a man of deep faith in Christ, and Sue was with him when he passed into eternity. Here is her account: “My dad said (I’ll never forget it) ‘Oh!  What a crowd!’  He was not only smiling but also had a look of awe, and his voice had the sound of awe (something else I will never forget)!  I think it’s the awe that really hit me, like something I can’t even begin to imagine as hard as I try – but I know it’s good because it was said with awe and a smile!” “He didn’t pass away until the next day but was not responsive before or after he said those words.  A few minutes before he passed he suddenly opened his eyes (which hadn’t been open for a day and a half) and looked beyond me toward the wall. He moved his mouth like he was trying to say something, but of course, no sound came out as he was too weak.  Then he was gone.” Sue says that now heaven is more than a hope for her; heaven has become an exciting reality that she’s looking forward to, where she’ll be reunited with loved ones and home with Jesus forever!  How about you? Are you ready to meet Jesus in heaven?!Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
for I am God, and there is none else”
(Isaiah 45:22).

A Whale Tale from Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

whale-tail-by-michaelLast week I shared 20+ of my favorite photos from the Na Pali Coast, but today
I want to share my whale tale (although this tail was taken by my son, Mike). scanning-the-sea-for-whales-na-pali-coast-kauai       Every time we go to Hawaii, I scan the sea for signs of whales, adventure-rafting-na-pali-coast-kauai     and I’ve always wanted to go whale watching, quiet-na-pali-coast-kauaibecause from the shoreline, the whales are usually way out in the distance
and all you can see is s puff of spray to let you know they’re there.sailboats-heading-to-na-pali-coast-kauaiWhile on the Blue Dolphin Charter tour up Kauai’s Na Pali coast,
we saw tons of whales. beach-along-na-pali-coast-kauaiLiterally! humpback-whale-starts-to-dive-napali-coast-kauaiWell, we saw 12-20, but an adult whale is 39-52 feet long and weighs about 79,000 pounds, so each whale we saw was up to 40 tons of whale, right?  🙂  na-pali-coastline-and-mountainsOur captain pointed out that the humpback whales in the Pacific
are really Hawaiian citizens, na-pali-coast-jagged-mountains-kauaisince they give birth here and just migrate north
(about 8,000 miles to Alaska or other Arctic waters) for the summers. magnificent-na-pali-coast-kauaiAfter the mother gives birth, she feeds her calf milk,
and he can gain up to 150-180 pounds each day. sun-streaming-down-on-na-palis-rugged-coast-kauaiI can’t even imagine that much growth, can you? adventure-boat-plying-waters-along-na-pali-coastAlthough boats aren’t allowed to come within 130 yards of a whale, looking-south-along-na-pali-coast-kauaiwhales aren’t held to the same high standard,
and if they want to come close to explore, they will. mother-and-calf-whales-emerging-next-to-our-blue-dolphin-ii-charterOn our trip, a whale and her calf surfaced within 15 yards of our boat (closest siting the Blue Dolphin II had seen all year). whale-diving-napali-coast-kauaiOf course, it all happened so fast that it was hard to get in position and focused at the right place and the right moment, whale-surfacing-na-pali-coast-hawaiibut I was able to snap a few photos before they breached and dived. whale-submerging-hawaiis-na-pali-coastI’ve had a lot of fun thinking about spiritual parallels since.

                                                 Here are a few thoughts:humpback-whale-by-blue-dolphin-charter-catamaran-kauai*Jesus came to earth (“Alaska’s frozen shores”…no offense, Alaskans. Alaska is also beautiful, just like this earth, but it’s cold compared to Hawaii!), but He was from heaven (Hawaiian/heavenly citizenship) and returned to heaven. Believers also have a heavenly citizenship due to our spiritual birth and will join him in heaven again. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV).  mother-and-baby-humpback-whales-kauai*Jesus was the ultimate whale calf. He knew the scripture. He not only absorbed the scripture, He was the Word made flesh. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father),  full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).whale-in-pacific-ocean-kauais-napali-coast*We can become spiritual giants  (like the humpback whales) too, if we’ll only drink in the Word. Humpbacks grow for 10 years. Have you stopped feeding on the Word? We can grow our entire lives if we will! “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm  92:14).  whale-blowing-blue-dolphin-charters*Just like the whales in the sea, Jesus is always there whether or not He’s obvious. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).  whale-tail-blue-dolphin-charter-catamaran-napali-coastjpg*We strain our eyes to catch a glimpse, but we don’t often see Him close up! “Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:7-9). humpback-whale-emerges-right-by-our-ship-kauai*But, sometimes He appears right beside us, and when He does, what a thrill! Those wonderful spiritual experiences remain with us throughout our lives. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17).end-of-napali-coast