Monday, August 10, 2015


Gujarat has over a hundred known stepwells. Two stepwells near Ahmedabad are particularly noteworthy for their elaborate design and superb sculptures.

Adalaj Vav

The small town of Adalaj lies between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The step well here is not particularly difficult to find, but it is very easy to go right past it, since not much is visible above ground. Since this is my second trip to the vav (first blog post here), I'll be brief with photos.

 Google Maps shows that the step well is on a north-south axis. The pavilions stretching across the steps are visible.
The stepwell is five storeys deep. This view is from the entrance looking across the traverse pavilions back to the octagonal well at the end.
An angled view gives a better idea of how the pavilions are stacked.
Going down a level, water in the well becomes visible.
The octagonal well at the north end. The galleries are accessible via stairs that are not open to the public.
Looking back up at the entrance to the stepwell.
A group of art students were sketching in the step well.

Rani ki Vav

A bit over 100 km to the northeast, in the town of Patan, an even more amazing stepwell awaits. Rani ki Vav (Queen's Stepwell) is the largest and most elaborate stepwell in India. Much of the stepwell had filled with sand, and been vandalized and plundered, until rediscovered in 1958. Excavation and restoration of needed structural elements now gives a feel for how magnificent the original structure must have been.

Google Maps shows that the step well is on an east-west axis, with a round well at the east end, and an overflow rectangular tank just before the well.
First view of the stepwell. Originally, the pavilions would have extended up to ground level as they do at Adalaj Vav.
Descending into the stepwell.
The walls of the stepwell were covered in detailed temple-worth sculptures. This is a view of the north wall.
The south wall.

The view from the lowest level open to the public. Again, the walls are covered in sculpted figures.
The rectangular tank that is filled by overflow from the well. The green algae marks shows that this structure has recently held a foot or two of water.
Yours truly with a group of girls out for a Sunday excursion.
Sculptures of deities, mortals, and geometric designs cover every square inch of the lower parts of the structure.
The upper levels have been weathered and eroded over time.
But the lower levels that were buried have retained exquisite detail.
The depth of this well must have been a stretch for the builders, as they needed to add buttresses that detract from the elegance of the round well.
Looking back at the entrance to the stepwell from above the well.

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