A simple act of fetching water on a hot Sunny day has become a celebration of delightful architectural experience at the stepped well of Adalaj in India. It provides a wonderful place of refuge for weary travelers.
Adalaj is located approximately 20 kilometers from the city of Ahmedabad in India. It is easily accessible by road and bus transit from Ahmedabad. Adalaj is located on the ancient trade route between Ahmedabad and Jaisalmer with connections to the ancient silk road that linked Europe with Asia. If you travel in westerly direction from Adalaj, you can visit two of my favorite sites: the Sun Temple at Modhera and the Harrapan city of Dholavira.
Entrance steps 2
The stepped well to fetch water
The stepped well structure known as Adalajki Vav descends five stories deep through a series of stair runs and platforms. Along the way, one experiences magical interplay of light and shadows, and improved comfort level from harshness of Sun’s heat to the coolness of moist air close to the water. The stepped well structure was built in 1499 AD and continues to be a wonderful work of engineering and architecture.
Stepped Well floors 3
A rest area
The Adalajki Vav is accessed from three sides and appears to be a cross when seen from above. All three entrances lead to a major platform on the first level down. As you continue your journey, flights of stairs and platforms take you to where there is water. The air cools as you travel downward, and the harshness of Sun reduces as well. The platforms provide venues to relax, shop, pray and ponder over our place in this world.
A Love Story
The structure was the brainchild of a Hindu king Ranveer Singh, who wanted to create a place of refuge for his people. The construction started during his reign, however, he was killed in a battle with a neighboring Muslim king named Mehmud Begada, before it could be completed. The new king fell in love with Ranveer Singh’s widow – Queen Roopba – and wanted to marry her. The Queen agreed to marry him with one condition, that he would complete the stepped well as envisioned by her deceased husband. King Begada agreed to complete the structure. When the structure was completed, Queen Roopba threw herself into the well and killed herself since she had no intention of marrying the Muslim king. She simply wanted to see the stepped well completed as a tribute to her late husband.
Full height of the Stepped Well 4
How does one conceive, let alone build a subterranean work of architecture with such proficiency and skill? From the engineering perspective, you must excavate and create massive retaining walls to hold earth with the help of braces and supports. From an architectural perspective, you need to create an experience that is comfortable and enjoyable while allowing you to blend a variety of uses for a cosmopolitan audience with varying religious and spiritual needs. All of that was done skillfully and effortlessly at the stepped well of Adalaj with the added intrigue of a love story.
The roof level 5
- Title Image – By AnupGandhe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82663057
- 2 Entrance – By Karthik Easvur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51922535
- 3 A stepped well floor – By Ragshah 17 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49406426
- 4 Full height – By Yash Mori – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94538051
- 5 Roof – By Karthik Easvur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51922554