History and architecture always amazes us. Not only because of the various types, styles, materials, intricacies, labor and intelligence put into making them but also the stories, myths and realities associated with them.
Science and technology has advanced so much and we are creating startling architectural marvels round the world but when we take a deeper look at the historical architectures, we realize the depth of human intelligence put into it, without much of machine technology. One such construction is step wells and while we were on a trip to Gujarat, we did not want to miss a chance on visiting the famous Adalaj Step well.
What are Step wells?
Step wells are wells or ponds in which the water is reached by descending a set of steps to the water level. Water deficiency and seasonal fluctuations in water availability in the western region of Indian subcontinent led to construction of step wells. The creation of step wells is functional, but they mostly include embellishments of architectural significance. Step wells made it easier for people to reach the groundwater as compared to wells or tanks.
In the ancient times, step wells also served as a place for social gatherings, religious ceremonies and a place to relax for the travelers. The construction is such that it protects the interiors from direct heat thus keeping the place cooler as compared to outside temperature.
Adalaj Ni Vav
Step wells are called as ‘Vav’ in local Gujarati language and this one being located in Adalaj (a town approximately 18 kilometers from Ahmedabad) is famous as Adalaj Ni Vav (The step well of Adalaj).
This historical and gorgeous step well was built in 1498 but has a heartbreaking story behind its presence. As per legends, Rana Veer Singh, the then ruler started building the well but was attacked and killed by a Muslim invader Mohammed Begda. Late king’s queen Rani Roopba (aka Roodabai) wanted to commit sati (funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or takes her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death). But Mohammed Begda fell in love with the queen and proposed to marry her. Queen accepted the proposal on the condition that Begda would finish the construction of the step well, to which he agreed. The step well was built in Solanki architecture style blending with Islamic architecture and Hindu carvings. But as soon as the well was complete, the queen jumped and ended her life. Her only intention was to complete the last construction of her late husband. Fortunately, Mohammed Begda did not ruin the step well and it still stands tall and astonishingly beautiful.
Adalaj Step well is five stories deep and was built using sandstone. It is intricately planned to serve the functions and boasts of beautiful figurines on the pillars and walls. Spacious floors were designed for people to assemble and celebrate festivals and functions in that era. The most unique feature of this step well is that, three staircases are built to reach the water level at the bottom from the first floor.
It is one structure that showcases the striking amalgamation of Hindu and Islamic architecture. The blend of motifs and graphics from both the cultures is worth a look.
So, next time you are in Ahmedabad, you not what not to miss.
Adalaj Ni Vav is open on all days from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and does not charge any entrance fee to the visitors of any nationality. The place is easily reachable by road by an auto or taxi from Ahmedabad. Nearest airport is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International airport at Ahmedabad.