BĀOLĪ or bāvalī is a masonry well with steps leading down to water level. This is perhaps the oldest type of well introduced when man had discovered the existence of sub-soil water and also the means to reach it, but had not yet invented mechanical devices to draw water out of it. Before masonry art was developed, bāolīs must have been only shallow pits with a sloping path down to the water, vertical walls and dented steps confined only to rocky regions. Gradually as the arts of brick-making and masonry developed, bāolīs began to be constructed in the plains and, although subsequently use of pulleys and, still later, of the Persian wheel was introduced to bring water up to the surface of the earth, the vogue of bāolīs continued up to comparatively more recent times.
During early Sikhism, successive Gurūs raised several villages and towns across the Punjab, with ponds and bāolīs, especially in areas where water was scarce.
In the Sikh system the importance of daily morning bath (snāna) is stressed equally with nām (meditation on God's name) and dān (charity). A historically famous bāolī which is today an important pilgrim site for the Sikhs was built by Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574) at Goindvāl, town he had himself founded.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)