Well of Death, called ”Maut Ka Kuan” in Hindi, is a sideshow attraction consisting of a slanted wall for cars and motors. Inspired by the American motordromes called ”Wall of Death”, the Wells of Death in India are considered much more dangerous because of the walls being a bit more slanted and the lack of safety precautions. The performers construct and dismantle their own near-vertical walls. They consist of wooden planks whose height ranges from 6 to 12 meters. Because of the barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, the performance is known as the ”Well” of Death in India.
The first motordrome debuted at Coney Island in 1911 and spread overseas, becoming more popular in Britain than it was in the United States. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the motordrome turned into a silodrome, and the Walls of Death remained popular throughout the 1960s. Eventually, the spectacle reached India and was adopted by the carnival performers. In the beginning, the performers used manual bicycles to ride around the velodromes for 48 hours. Eventually, they were replaced by motorcycles and cars. Cars are considered a unique Indian addition to the performance.
The Well of Death is a popular activity at many events like Vijayasadhami and Magh Mela, culturally significant festivals celebrated in India and Nepal. Today the practice is not as famous as it was once, but the few remaining Wells of Death in India still attract people.
Hundreds of spectators circle the pit to witness the crazy actions performed by the daredevil drivers in cars or on motors. The drivers draw circles around the almost vertical pit using the power of the centrifugal force. They don’t wear any helmets or protective gear. To make the show more dangerous, drivers perform daring jumps and stunts. They even grab money from the outstretched hand of the spectators.
The popularity of the event waned due to televisions that could broadcast the same sport by allowing people to stay at home. But it continues to be performed since it is a livelihood for some of the drivers and some people still enjoy watching it.