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Updated: 08 Sep 2022 5:56 pm
Found across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi, stepwells (subterranean wells which can be approached by a flight of stairs) were usually built to in olden times to seek respite from the summer heat of northern India. Usually built under the patronisation of royal families or wealthy people, these stepwells were often beautified with elaborate architecture, including carvings. Variously known as bawri, baoli or vav, they survive as India’s answer to an air-conditioning system long before the AC machine was invented.
Here are our favourite five:
Surya Kund Stepwell, Ahmedabad
The 11th century Sun Temple at Modhera in Gujarat contains a giant stepwell within the complex. It contains 108 miniature shrines, each of which has the ‘108’ number carved inside. The number is revered in Hinduism and yoga. The stepwell’s rectangular stepped water tank serves as the perfect example of geometry.
How to reach: It is just 100km from Ahmedabad. You can take a bus from Ahmedabad and change in Mahesana. You can also book a cab.
Rani Ki Vav, Ahmedabad
Rani Ki Vav is one of the oldest stepwells in Gujarat and is situated on the shore of the River Saraswati in Gujarat. Constructed in the shape of an inverted temple in the Maru-Gujarat architectural style, it houses 800 sculptures based on the Vishnu avatar. According to local people, the stepwell was constructed by Rani Udayamati of the Chaulukya dynasty to honour her husband, Bhimdev.
How to reach: This stepwell is just a three-hour drive from Ahmedabad to reach Patan. You can also take a bus from the ST Bus Station in Ahmedabad.
Rajon Ki Baoli, Delhi
Built by Daulat Khan of Delhi’s Lodi dynasty in the early 16th century, the stepwell displays Islamic architectural prowess. Apparently, the name is of later vintage, when masons (locally called rajmistri) had started living here. The stepwell complex also contains a mosque and a tomb.
How to reach: This stepwell is located in Mehrauli, in New Delhi. The nearest metro station is Qutub Minar station.
Toorji Ka Jhalra, Rajasthan
Constructed in 1740 by the queen of Maharaja Abhay Singh, this stepwell is more than 200 feet deep and is constructed in red sandstone. It features carved dancing elephants, lions, and other deities.
How to reach: This stepwell is located 4.5 kilometres away from Jodhpur.
Chand Baori, Rajasthan
Located in Abhaneri village in Rajasthan, Chand Baori is a 1000-year-old heritage site. Constructed by King Chanda of the Nikumbh dynasty, this stepwell was constructed around the 8th and 9th centuries. The stepwell features 3,500 steps with 13 floors and is considered one of the largest stepwells in the world.
How to reach: Chand Baori is 88km from Jaipur. You can either take a jeep or taxi from Sikandra or Jaipur.
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