"Nothing endures but change."


Stepped Wells Of Gujarat

Tanima Roy Chowdhury writes about the stepped wells in the small village of Adalaj, near Ahmedabad.

Stepped wells are not an uncommon site in Gujarat. In fact Gujarat possesses about several hundred step-wells from the Rani-Ki-Vav of Patan and the Vikia-Vav at Ghumli to the Adalaj-Vav at Adalaj. These stepped-wells were built as a means of storage of water in a predominantly dry climate and they continued to serve as a civic amenity well into the Islamic Period.

Sadly, most of the Stepped-Wells or Vavs as they are locally called fell into disrepair, as alternate means of water supply became available. However some of these Vavs deserve to be preserved for their aesthetic as well as historic value. The Government has concentrated on preserving a few of these exceptional monuments out of which the Adalaj Vav is the most noteworthy of the lot.

It is this Vav that we decided to visit on a Sunday morning. It was a short drive along the Gandhinagar-Sarkhej highway when we turned left into a side road, which led the village of Adalaj.

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Ruda, wife of the Waghela chief Vairasimha, built the Adalaj Vav in 1498. The oblong stepped-well runs north south, with an entry at the south from three sides and a five storey octagonal shaft which was the main well of yesteryear. The well is round at the foot and beyond it is another dry well. The Adalaj Vav is richly carved and every pillar and wall is covered with carvings depicting leaves, flowers, birds, fish and other ornamental designs. Among the other wonderful sculptures include a king seated on a stool beneath a parasol with two bearers dancing maidens and musicians. Elephants march eternally around an exuberant frieze as does the horse and other mythical animals.

After the heat outside the descent into the cool shady depths of the well is a truly magical experience. The well has become a home to many a bird and animal as it is no longer in use. The surrounding atmosphere of peace and serenity is interrupted from time to time by green parrots darting through the shaft or by the call of the pigeons, which have found ideal nesting places in the innumerable niches. The striped Squirrels playfully dart up and down the pillars and platforms or quietly sit sunning themselves on intricately carved shelves. Some of them are accomplished models, one should see how they pose for photographs!

The flat gallery on the ground level is surrounded by well-tended gardens, which gives the general impression that the monument is well looked after. All in all it was a wonderful experience and is a must for anyone stopping by in Ahmedabad even for a day.

(Photo Credit: Sanjay Roy Chowdhury & Samrat Som)

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