Rani-ki-Vav- The majestic Queen’s step-well

“Rani-ki-Vav” started wowing the Indian tourists, after being prominently displayed on the new 100 currency note printed by the Reserve Bank of India, in 2018.

I had an entire day to myself after attending a seminar at Ahmedabad, the previous evening. I planned a road trip to Rani-ki-Vav located near the town of Patan – about 125 kms from Ahmedabad. Though there were roadblocks on the way due to US President Trump’s visit to the city (almost a week later), I reached Rani-ki-Vav in less than 3 hours with a short tea break in between.

Being a Sunday, there were lot of tourists – both domestic and international. The vast green lawns welcome the tourists before entering the step-well premises. It was tough taking photos at the site without being “photo-bombed” or getting “photo-bombed”. It was no surprise that the step-well had no water since it perhaps rained more than 5 months ago.

Rani-ki-Vav (The Queen’s step-well), a 11th century architectural wonder, is located in Patan (Gujarat). The 900-year-old structure is a major tourist attraction, and was awarded as the cleanest iconic place in India. It has been listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 2014.

The step-well was built by the Solanki dynasty’s Queen Udayamati in the 11th century as a memorial to her deceased husband Bhimadev I. Over the years, as the Saraswati river changed its course, the massive structure was flooded and lay buried until its excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India in the late 1980s. Siltation has preserved the structure intact over the centuries. The architecture reflects the rich style used during the time of Solanki dynasty.

Rani-ki-Vav highlights the sanctity of water as it is designed as an inverted temple under the earth’s surface. The central theme is the Dasha-Avatar, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers).

The step-well is not just a subterranean water storage system but also an architectural wonder. It is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptured panels of high artistic quality, featuring over 500 sculptures and over 1,000 minor ones combining religious, mythological imagery, often referencing literary works.

The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 metres by 9.4 metres at a depth of 23 metres. The entrance is located in the east while the well is located at the westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep. The step-well is divided into seven levels of stairs which lead down to deep circular well. A stepped corridor is compartmentalised at regular intervals with pillared multi-storied pavilions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are ornamented with carvings and scroll work. The niches in the side walls are ornamented with beautiful and delicate figures and sculptures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.

Every monument has a mystery behind it and so does Rani-ki-Vav. Beneath the last step of the well, there is a gate that leads to a 30 metres tunnel that opens to Sidhpur, a town close to Patan. Patan was once the capital of Gujarat during the medieval times.

From Rani-ki-Vav the nest destination was Modhera Sun Temple about 35 kms to the South, on the return journey to Ahmedabad. To know more about Modhera Sun Temple please click on this LINK