Stepwell is a unique Hindu 'water building' in the village of Adalaj, close to Ahmedabad
town in Gandhinagar
district in the Indian state of Gujarat
. The stepwell was built in 1499 by Muslim king Mohammed Begda for Queen Rani Roopba, wife of Veer Singh, the Vaghela chieftain. The step well or 'Vav', as it is called in Gujarati, is intricately carved and is five stories in depth. Such step wells were once integral to the semi arid regions of Gujarat as they provided basic water needs for drinking, washing and bathing. These wells were also venues for colorful festivals and sacred rituals.
Stepwells, also called stepped ponds, built between the 5th and 19th centuries, are common in the west of India
; over 120 such wells are reported in the semi-arid region of Gujarat alone, of which the well at Adalaj is most popular. Stepwells are also found in more arid regions of the subcontinent, extending into Pakistan
, to collect rain water during seasonal monsoons. While many such structures are utilitarian in construction, they sometimes include significant architectural embellishments, as in the Adlaj stepwell, which attracts a large number of tourists. In the past, these stepwells were frequented by travelers and caravans as stopovers along trade routes.
A research scholar, who studied the history and architecture of the stepwells in Gujarat under a Fulbright Fellowship, has termed these wells as “High Hindu Stepwells” because of the recorded literature of the Brahmins of the period from fifth to ninth centuries, during the “High Hindu period”. While the Brahmins were the architects, the builders were artisans of Sompara sect of low–caste Hindus. A wide unbridgable gulf of religious distinction existed between the two groups, with the former getting all the credit.The cultural and architectural depiction in the deep wells at various levels are a tribute to the history of step wells, built initially by Hindus and subsequently ornamented and blended with Islamic architecture during the Muslim rule.
Built in sand stone in Indo-Islamic architectural style, the Adlaj stepwell is five stories deep. It is octagonal (8-sided polygon) 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 ground water at that level, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in water level due to rainfall over the year.
The air and light vents in the roofs at various floors and at the landing level are in the form of large openings. From the first story level, three staircases lead to the bottom water level of the well, which is considered a unique feature. Built along a North-South axis, entrance is from the South, the three staircases are from the South, West and East directions leading to the landing, which is on the northern side of the well. Four small rooms with oriel windows decorated with minutely carved brackets are provided at the landing level, at the four corners. The structural system is typically Indian style with traditional trabeat with horizontal beams and lintels.
The Adalaj step-well is a popular tourist attraction of the Ahmedabad city and is situated 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of the city.It is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat.Ahmedabad is well connected by road, rail and air links with the rest of the country. The international airport at Ahmedabad, known as the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport, has flights operating to several countries. Kalupur
is the railway station closest to the stepwell.