The more you explore, the more intrigued you become; such is the nation of India! With everything from time-worn forts and castles to scenic mountains, the country is adorned with splendid attractions. If that was not enough, India boasts of ancient stepwells, which by the way are unique to the country! You won’t find these stepwells anywhere else in the world. This makes it a favourite amongst many Bollywood and Hollywood directors, who visit these sites to capture unique shots for their films. Before we go any further, let’s first find out what exactly stepwells are.
Stepwells are man-made ponds where rainwater is stored to recharge the underground water level of many villages and towns nearby. Though most of these Indian stepwells are now out of order, some of them have still survived as they are living examples of Indian art and architecture. Here is a list of 7 stepwells, which are simply stunning and should be explored!
1. Rani Ki Vav
Located in Patan, Gujarat, Rani Ki Vav is a 900 year old stepwell, dating back to the 11th century. It is the only stepwell, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was recognised as the ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ in India by the Indian Sanitation Conference (INDOSAN), which was inaugurated by PM Modi. A walk down the stairs will make you feel like you are walking around an art gallery, as there are many sculptures based on Hindu and Jain mythology that have been engraved on the walls.
2. Modhera Sun Temple Kund
Modhera Sun Temple is an 11th century temple complex dedicated to the Vedic Sun God. It was built by King Bhima I of the Chalukyas of Gujarat. The whole temple’s complex is an open gallery that has several statues crafted on its walls, pillars, and ceiling. The temple is designed in such a way, that the first rays of the sun light up the image of Surya on the days of the equinox. During the summer solstice, the sun is directly over the temple at noon, so there is no shadow that is cast.
3. Adalaj Vav
Adalaj Vav is an excellent example of Hindu, Jain and Islamic architecture, but also has a tragic legen behind its construction. Adalaj is near Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar, which was once commanded by Veersinh. He wanted to construct a Vav (stepwell) for his people who were suffering from water shortage, but his work stopped as he died in a battle against the Sultan of Gujarat, Mahmud Begada. Mahmud Begada had his eyes on Veersinh’s widow Rudabai, who put a condition that she will only marry Begada if he finishes the work on the Vav that was started by her late husband. He agreed, and the construction of the Vav was completed. After which, Rudabai committed suicide by jumping in the Vav as she didn’t want to marry the sultan. And that is why Adalaj Vav is also known as Rudabai Vav.
If you are in Ahmedabad, or planning to visit the city, then you can visit all the above three stepwell sites, which are within a radius of 125 kilometres from Ahmedabad.
4. Chand Baori
Chand Baori is the most popular stepwell site, as it has been featured in two famous Hollywood movies – The Fall (2006) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). This stepwell is 1,200 years old, and was created by a Chauhan ruler (Chanda). It has 3,500 steps, and it’s almost impossible to enter and exit the stepwell from the same stairs! Chand Baori is just 100 kilometres from Jaipur, and for all travellers planning to visit Jaipur and Agra by road, this is a must-see attraction, which is just 2 kilometres from the Jaipur-Agra Highway.
5. Agrasen Ki Baoli
Nestled in Connaught Place, Delhi, Agrasen ki Baoli is believed to be the oldest stepwell site in India. It is assumed that Agrasen ki Baoli was built in the Mahabharata era, though the written facts suggest that it was redeveloped by the Agrawal kings or community in the early 14th century.
This stepwell has more than 108 steps, moving three stories down. The view of the skyscrapers of Connaught Place from here adds a fusion of history and the modern era, offering a unique experience to its visitors.
6. Hadi Rani Ka Kund
Driving 150 kilometres south from Jaipur, there is a stepwell named after Hadi Rani, wife of Ratan Chundawat of Todarraisingh. Ratan Chundawat was the commander of the Rajput Army, and if the stories are to be believed, he was hesitant to join the war against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, as he had just got married and didn’t want to leave his wife. But, such an action could result in him being declared a traitor, so his newly wedded wife gave him a souvenir to boost his morale – she gifted her head to him! This incident filled Ratan Chundawat with rage, and he fought fearlessly and won the battle against the Mughal forces. Later, he killed himself as he couldn’t bear the pain of his wife’s sacrifice. And thus, Hadi Rani Ka Kund was built to remember this sacrifice.
7. Raniji Ki Baori
Last on the list of ancient Indian stepwells is Raniji Ki Baori or Queen Stepwell. Settled in the beautiful city of Bundi, Rajasthan, Raniji Ki Baori is a 300-year old, three-storey stepwell, famous for its well-arched gates and statues of elephants on all its pillars. Queen Nathavati of Bundi commissioned this stepwell, and this is where the stepwell got its name – Queen Stepwell. For travellers who are driving from Jaipur to Kota or Chittorgarh, Bundi is a perfect stop as you can visit this phenomenal architectural site and other fantastic tourist attractions like Garh Palace and Sukh Mahal.
Apart from these, there are many other stepwells, which are now protected by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), and they are all worth visiting. Have you have visited any of the stepwell sites? If yes, then share your experience in the comments section below!
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About The Author
Jatin Chhabra, a travel blogger from New Delhi exploring all directions in India to search mind-blowing attractions. From July’16 I have travelled more than 2000 km to capture pictures and stories of Ancient Indian Stepwells and further want to explore more of such sites.