Adalaj vav or Adalaj stepwell. In the Gujarati language a 'vav' means stepwell. Adalaj is about 19 kms from Ahmedabad in Gujarat State. Historians have opined that the construction of the vav was started by the then ruling King - Raja or Rana Veer Sinh of the Vaghela dynasty somewhere around 1498. He was killed in a battle with the Moghuls and it was left to his wife Rani Roodabai to complete the construction of the vav. The vav is also known as 'bowli' (in the Hindi language) in North India and who can forget the famous Chand bowli and its exquisite architecture near Jaipur, Rajasthan State.
Stepwells like the one in Adalaj were an integral part of life in the semi arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. These were built as a source of drinking water, bathing, venue for numerous social and cultural congregation and served as a palace to rest for travellers. The stepwell was also a meeting place for the women from the neighbouring villages, who would come here in the afternoon as the temperature was much lower, sit around, gossip, pray a little and go back when things cooled down outside.
Going by the legend of the 15th century the kingdom of Rana Veer Sinh was attacked by the Moghul king Muhammad Begda. A war ensued and Rana Veer Sinh was killed. Those were the days of 'Sati' when a Hindu wife would immolate herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband as in those days and in the then prevailing circumstances a widow had no life after the death of her husband. In the case of the Royal women they became the property of the conquering Kings and invariably were forced to marry the conqueror. In order to escape marrying the conqueror the women of the Royalty committed 'Sati' immolating themselves en masse in a pit where a fire would be raging. In accordance with this tradition Rani Roodabai - an exceedingly beautiful woman, also decided to commit Sati. She was however persuaded not to end her life. Muhammad Begda even had the temerity at that point of time to propose marriage to her. She was a clever woman and saw this as a golden opportunity to wriggle out of a tricky situation. She agreed but with one condition. That she be allowed to complete the construction of the Adalaj vav in memory of her late husband and no sooner the vav was completed she would offer herself in marriage to Begda. Begda was happy at this prospect and agreed. The construction of the vav resumed and no sooner it was completed Rani Roodabai in line with a clever plan already conceived earlier committed Sati and immolated herself rather than surrender to the Moghuls. The history of Gujarat, Rajasthan and other parts of Northern India are replete with such stories of woman committing Sati rather than become the property of someone else on the death of their spouse.
Sati was abolished subsequently in India - thanks to the efforts of the great reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy in December 1829.
The architecture is of the Solanki style with a blend of Indo - Islamic design and patterns. The material of construction is essentially sandstone. 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 ground water 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 water level is sustained even as on date as seen in the photograph. Once inside the vav the visitor is captivated by the intricate design and carvings in stone that adorn the walls, pillars, roof and corbels These have exquisite and intricate designs that enthral the visitor. The walls at the stepwell are adorned by figurines of various Hindu and Jain gods and they served as mini-temples for the women. Some of these temples are still functional, and its common to see people and saints visit these and offer flowers and worship the deities.
At the rooftop level one sees five tombs of which were found near the well. It is said that these are the tombs of the masons who were involved in the construction of the vav. Begda had asked the Masons if they could build another similar well and when they agreed Begda sentenced them to death instead. Begda was so impressed by the architectural excellence of the step well that he did not want a replica to be built.
This was an awesome experience for me to be there and to savour the beauty of the architecture dating back to the 15th century. The stories that I heard there bear testimony to the infinite love, sacrifice and retribution that is so evident in every square inch at this timeless testament of human civilization. For me the hours that I stood there photographing - time stood still.
Enjoy the photographs.
Category:Architecture and Structures
Subcategory:Places of Interest
Keywords:Adlajvav, Gujarat, Gujarathistory, Ranaveersinh, Raniroodabai., Solankidynasty, StepwellsofIndia