Adalaj Stepwell: Intricately Carved Historical Landmark Built In Sandstone
Updated: Apr 6
Adalaj or Rudabai Stepwell is a historic place located in the village of Adalaj, close to Ahmedabad city and in Gandhinagar district in the Indian state of Gujarat. Stepwells, also called stepped ponds, built between the 5th and 19th centuries, are common in Western India; over 120 such wells are reported in the semi-arid region of Gujarat alone, of which the well at Adalaj is one of the most popular and best historical places to visit.
Step wells like the one in Adalaj were once integral to the semi-arid regions of Gujarat, as they provided water for drinking, washing and bathing. These wells were also venues for colourful festivals and sacred rituals.
The Adalaj step well or 'Vav', as it is called in Gujarati, is intricately carved and is five stories deep. It was built in 1498. The history of the Adalaj step-well is established by an inscription in Sanskrit found on a marble slab positioned in a recess on the first floor, from the eastern entry to the well. Its construction was started by Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty of Dandai Desh. But he was killed in a war, whereafter the Muslim king Mahmud Begada of a neighbouring state built it in Indo-Islamic architectural style, in 1499.
This historical monument built in sandstone in the Solanki architectural style, the Adalaj stepwell is five stories deep. It is octagonal in plan at the top, built on intricately carved large number of pillars. Each floor is spacious enough to provide for people to congregate. It was dug deep to access groundwater at that level, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in water level due to rainfall over the years. The air and light vents in the roofs at various floors and at the landing level are in the form of large openings.
The motifs of flowers and graphics of Islamic architecture blend very well with the symbols of Hindu and Jain gods carved at various levels of the well. The walls are carved with women performing daily chores such as churning of buttermilk, adorning themselves, scenes of performance of dancers and musicians, and the King overlooking all these activities. An interesting depiction carved from a single block of stone is of the Ami Khumbor (symbolic pot of the water of life) and the Kalp Vriksha (a tree of life). Also seen is a fresco of navagraha or nine planets. These depictions are said to attract villagers for worship during marriage and other ritualistic ceremonies.
The temperature inside this historical site well is said to be about five degrees lower than the outside hot summer temperatures. This encouraged the women who came to fetch water to spend more time in the cool climes here. They stayed to worship the gods and goddesses and gossip.
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