The Stepped Well of Adalaj, India

An act of fetching water has become a celebration of delightful architectural experience at the stepped well of Adalaj in India.

A simple act of fetching water on a hot Sunny day becomes celebration of delightful architectural experience at the stepped well of Adalaj in India.  It provides a wonderful place of refuge for weary travelers. 

Getting there

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.  Glimpses of the rich history are evident in the nearby sites of the Sun Temple at Modhera and the Harrapan city of Dholavira.

Stepped well at Adalaj Entrance

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. In addition, the moist air close to the water, creates the cooling effect against the harshness of Sun’s heat. Built in 1499 AD, the stepped well structure continues to display the masterful strokes of engineering, climate control and architecture. 

Stepped well at Adalaj floor

Stepped Well floors 3

A rest area

The Adalajki Vav can be approached from three sides. All three entrances lead to a major platform on the first level down.  As you continue your journey to the well, flights of stairs and platforms take you to where there is water.  The platforms provide venues to relax, shop, pray and ponder over our place in this world.

A Love Story

The Adalajki Vav structure was the brainchild of 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 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 died since she had no intention of marrying King Begada.  She simply wanted to see the stepped well completed as a tribute to her late husband.

Full height of stepped well at Adalaj

Full height of the Stepped Well 4

Subterranean Architecture

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.

Roof level of the stepped well at Adalaj

The roof level 5

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