Rani-ki-Vav, the Queen’s step well, in India

Rani-Ki-Vav, puits à degrés, Patan, Inde

The Rani-ki-Vav is a bâoli (stepped well) located in the city of Patan, Gujarat, India.

The Rani-ki-Vav is a stepped well located in the city of Patan in Gujarat, India, on the banks of the Sarasvati River. The step-well is said to have been built by Udayamati, the widowed queen of Bhimdev I (1022-1063 AD), around 1050 AD in memory of the king. Bhimdev I was the son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anhilvâra, modern Patan. The stepped shaft was subsequently flooded by the nearby Sarasvati River and silted up until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by archaeologists. Once restored, magnificent sculptures of the well were found in pristine condition.

Step wells, or bâolis, are a particular form of underground hydraulic architecture unique to the Indian subcontinent, and have been built since the 3rd millennium BC. They have evolved over time from what were essentially pits in the sandy soil to complex forms richly decorated with elaborate paintings or carvings and very impressive sizes. The Rani-ki-Vav was built at a time when craftsmen were at the peak of their art in terms of step-pit construction. The Maru-Gurjara style reflects the mastery of this complex technique and the great beauty of detail and proportion. Worthy of its name(Queen’s Stepwell), the Rani-Ki-Vav is now considered « the queen of stepwells » in India. The Chand Baori in Rajasthan is another outstanding example of this technology.

Rani-Ki-Vav, puits à degrés, Patan, Inde

Conceived as an inverted temple emphasizing the sacredness of water, it is divided into seven staircase levels with sculpted panels of the highest artistic quality. There are over 500 main sculptures and more than a thousand minor ones combining religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referring to literary works. Most of the bas-reliefs are dedicated to the god Vishnu, represented in the form of his avatars (Krishna, Rama etc.). The fourth level is the deepest, leading to a rectangular reservoir measuring 9.5 m by 9.4 m, and 23 m deep. The shaft is located at the western end of the site and consists of an axis 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. The building itself measures 64 m by 20 m.

Under the last step of the stepped shaft, there’s a door that leads to a long, 30-kilometer tunnel that opens into the town of Sidhpur near Patan. It was built as an escape tunnel that could be used by the king in the event of defeat in war. The tunnel is now blocked by stones and mud.

In the 13th century, geotectonic upheavals led to a modification of the Sarasvati riverbed, after which the Rani-ki-Vav lost its hydraulic function. Above all, it was buried under several layers of sediment for almost seven centuries. This is why the Rani-ki-Vav is today the best-preserved stepped well, until it was rediscovered less than 30 years ago.

Rani-ki-Vav is one of India’s most beautiful and, above all, best-preserved relics, and was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites on June 22, 2014.

Rani-Ki-Vav, puits à degrés, Patan, Inde

How to visit Rani-ki-Vav?

The site is about 125 km fromAhmedabad.

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Have you visited the Rani-Ki-Vav in Patan?

Source photos : Amusing Planet