Sunday, May 08, 2011

Adalaj Vav Stepwell

Driving past a nuclear power plant, we drove north about 17 km (10.5 mi) to the stepwell known as Adalaj Vav. The guidebook I had described the step well as being one of Gujarat’s finest, and upon seeing it, I’d have to agree. It was built in 1499 to collect and conserve water in this arid region. Although it served a very important utilitarian purpose, the beauty of the structure suggests something more. As we began climbing down the 95 steps, the temperature became noticeably cooler – around 9° C less, changing it from around 35°C to 77°F at the lower level.

On both sides of the stairs were intricately carved horizontal detailing comprised of geometric and floral motifs, along with some figures. Light filtered through the colonnaded pavilions, beckoning visitors to sit, relax and socialize. For many centuries, women retreated to the well when gathering water, as did the Silk Road caravans. Niches, balconies, and windows were all elaborately carved. The balconies surrounding the five levels of the intermediate tank reminded me of a grand opera theatre, all with splendid views. People used to walk the final steps of this first well to take ritual baths. The main well with its 30 m (100 ft) shaft was widely used up to the early 20th century. In fact, our guide said that some water still exists in the well and is used to water the grass of the surrounding grounds.

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