Friday, 14 November 2014

Rani Ki Vav, the queen of step-wells, India

Water-wells are part and parcel of Indian culture, particularly in villages where agriculture is a major occupation.There is no village in India that does not have a common well which is a place of gathering for the people, particularly village women. They come there for potable water, gossips and discussion on down-to-earth problems. 

There are many step-wells in Gujarat and Rajasthan- the Rajputana states of India. But,Rani Ki Vav, an ornate, beautifully carved step-well is the first priority among the tourist attractions of Gujarat It is more exquisite and magnificent than other step -wells. They have a kind of mystic about them - a close relationship between human civilization and survival. The UNESCO’s list of 'World Heritage Sites' in India has included Rani Ki Vav.

Rani Ki Vav, as recognized by UNESCO for its sheer beauty, intricate carvings,workmanship, celestial sculptures, and water-preserving technology, is a masterpiece of technological excellence in Hydrology and ground water management as far back as in the 11th century. A great feat – one of a kind in the world.

The step-well is a seven-storied structure underground measuring about 64 meters in length, 20 meters in width and 27 meters in depth. It is an age-old representation of how ground water was collected,stored and used in those days. It is a good example of work of Indian subterranean architecture with ornamental sculptures.
Rani ki vav -step well credit: indiaheritagesites wordpress .com
According to the history of the step-well, Patan where it is located, was the capital of Gujarat during the time of Siddharja Jaysingh and Rani Ki Vav was started in the Solanki or Chalukya regime.

It is believed that the step-well was built in honor of Bhimdev, the First whose father was the founder of the Solanki dynasty in 1050 AD. The queen Udayamati, wife of Bhimdev, first made a proposal for the well.
Sculptural beauty is the main attraction of Rani Ki Vav for tourists. The step-well is replete with finely designed architecture - the inner walls, pillars and columns are ornate and beautiful.It is a pain-taking, highly imaginative work one can hardly ever run into in any other part of the planet.
Rani ki Vav -carved step well. credit. flikr.com
Rani ki Vav. step-well. credit:ancientorogins.com
 Most of the sculptures represent the incarnations of Lord Vishnu – Rama, Krishna, Narsinha, Varah, Baman, Matsya, and Kalki. There are more than   800 elaborate sculptures - whopping figure considering the difficult terrain - among seven galleries. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, Brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers like Urvasi, Yogini, et al.), painting their lips and adorning themselves.
An eye catching carving of Lord Vishnu resting on the thousand-hooded serpent named Sheshnag is at the water level.

Rani ki Vav-step-wellcredit: flikr. com
Till the late 1980 the step wells were covered with silts from the waters of Saraswati river. Then, the Archeological Survey of India discovered and excavated Rani Ki Vav which is an interface between a step-well and a temple. The subterranean temple with carvings of deities in stone and the step-well are symbolic of the age-old tradition and faith in the purity and sanctity of water. Because of their close relationship among water management,worship and social gathering at one place in those by-gone eras, the step-wells were interwoven with the society in the olden days.

The steps lead to the deepest bottom through several pillared pavilions. The lower most step ends at a small gate which opens to a 30-km tunnel. It is supposed to have been used as an escape-route to the nearby town Sidhpur in times of war or invasion by enemies.
No doubt Rani Ki Vav is also known as the Queen’s Step-well.

Rani Ki Vav in Patan is a 125-km from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Modhera, the ancient Sun Temple, is  on the way.