From Baroda, in South; to Patan, in North – Stepwells (or vavs, as locally known) can be found almost all across Gujarat. For hundreds of years, their efficiency in storing water, in response to the semi-acrid climate and seasonal fluctuations, helped the local population strive and survive.
Today vavs represent rich history and act as prominent historical sites for architecture students and tourists alike. It is believed that some of the vavs must have been built at Mohanjodaro during the Indus-Valley civilisation. Ahmedabad, too, has two prominent vavs, both of them an extraordinary heritage site to visit.
I ended up visiting them after an undeniable request from an auto rickshaw driver in Ahmedabad, according to whom, Mata Bhavani and Dada Hari vavs are an important cultural heritage, gifted to his city. Hopelessly driven by his encouraging gamut, I decided to give them a visit.
My first stop was Dada Hari ni Vav, a carefully designed 500-year-old, which was originally built under the reign of one of the most prominent sultans of Gujarat named Mahmud Begada. A total delight to eyes, it offers a four-storeyed massive structure, all full of intricately carved walls and columns. The sunlight filtering through was making it look even more beautiful.
It gets darker as you go deeper. I wondered how the artisans would have managed to see their work down there back then.
Just behind the Dada Hari ni Vav is the mosque of Sultani, where tourists are totally allowed to walk in and even take photographs. This was also built about 1500 AD and is said to be the final resting place of Bai Harir.
A few minutes walk from Dada Hari ni Vav took me to Mata Bavani ni Vav. Unlike other vavs in and around Ahmedabad, Mata Bhavani’s vav apparently seemed to have a total Hindu influence, with its much later constructed small shrine of Hindu Goddess Bhavani, located at lower gallery. It is from the shrine from which it has derived its name.
Though few may find Mata Bhavani’s vav a little smaller in size, its beauty and rich history cannot be disregarded. Built in 11th century during Solanki dynasty rule in Gujarat, it is one of the earliest existing examples of vavs in India.
The contrast between the two was stark. Where Dada Hari ni Vav appeared to be lost in oblivion, as if slowly losing its battle against the changing time and generation, Mata Bhivani ni Vav was all lively, colourful and perfectly restored. It moreover had a specified visiting hours between 10am and 6pm. Dada Hari ni Vav, on the contrary, was open wide apart for humans, dogs and apes, alike. Can’t say which one did I prefer. I think both had their charm.
Another stepwell that you can visit around Ahmedabad is Adalaj ni Vav. Click Here to read about it.
Further reading: A Traveller’s Guide to Ahmedabad’s Best Kept Secrets
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