India

Adalaj Ni Vav: A Stepwell In Gujarat Like No Other

Located at about 12 km outside of the north end of Ahmedabad, Adalaj ni Vav is one of the prominent historic establishments and many tourists’ first choice to see a stepwell, in Ahmedabad.

Other than its impressive ancient structures, what distinguishes Adalaj Ni Vav from the other stepwells in Gujarat is its spectacular mix of Indo-Islamic architecture and design. And that’s not it. Its completion speaks of a story that goes in the usual Bollywood style of the bygone days – containing a bit of love, war, and hatred!

The Story Of Adalaj Ni Vav

The legend has it that Adalaj ni Vav was originally commissioned by King Veersinh, sometime during the early 15th century, who was the ruling king of the town Adalaj. But before its completion, Veersinh got into a fight with a neighbouring King called Mehmud Begada and lost his life. As a result, the construction work for Adalaj ni Vav stopped.

When King Veersinh’s wife Rani Roopba got the news, she vowed to complete her husband’s work and schemed to trap King Mehmud Begada, and made him fell in love with her. When King Mehmud proposed her, she agreed to get married to him, but on a condition that he would finish the pending work of the (Adalaj ni Vav) stepwell.

Soon after, the work of Adalaj ni vav continued, keeping the original style unchanged. However, King Mehmud added a bit of Islamic influence on the architecture.

As the stepwell got completed in 1499, and King Mehmud asked her to finally get married, Rani Roopba jumped into the vav and committed suicide.

Adalaj ni vav is a spectacular example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its walls depict Islamic floral patterns seamlessly fused into Hindu symbolism embodying the culture and ethos of those times.

Another remarkable feature of Adalaj ni Vav, which sets it apart from the many other stepwells in Gujarat, is the three entrance stairs. All three stairs meet at the first level, underground a huge square platform, which has an octagonal opening on top.

There is an opening in the ceilings above the landing which allows the light and air to enter the octagonal well. However, direct sunlight does not touch either the water or any of the five stories, except for a brief period at noon. Hence some researchers say that the atmosphere inside the well is six degrees cooler than the outside.

Please note that the visiting hours for Adalaj ni Vav are between 8 am to 7 pm only. However, the best time for a visit would be early morning, as it often gets pretty crowded later in the day.

Stepwells can be found across western and southern India, starting from Karnataka, to Maharasthra, to Gujarat, to Rajasthan. Even Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have a few. Other than acting as stored drinking water, they, back in the days, provided a resting place to travellers and prevailed as a place for socializing. It is believed that more than 200 step-wells can be found alone in Gujarat today – making it easy to imagine their numbers in the bygone era.

Although they were secular in nature – meaning anyone could use them – the sanctity of water drove the benefactors to incorporate religious icons into the structures, making some of the vavs an extraordinary heritage sight.

Read about other Stepwells (vavs) in and around Ahmedabad that I visited: Dada Hari ni Vav and Mata Bhawani ni Vav.

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After my couple of years of corporate career, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in a backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to spend your life working at one place, and that's what inspires me to remain footloose and fancy-free for the rest of my life!

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