A Masterpiece of a Well: Adalaj Ni Vav
This unique stepwell 18 km from Ahmedabad will take your breath away….
King Rana Veer Singh was the ruler of Dandai Desh, the area around today’s Adalaj. He was a descent from the Vaghela dynasty. A dynasty whose end was caused by Allauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate.
King Rana Veer Singh was sensitive towards his subjects, especially their need for water considering the arid conditions in his kingdom. To provide for year round water for his subjects, the King decided to build a stepwell.
Stepwells are famous in the regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Since these areas receive very little rainfall, every drop of water counts.
Adalaj Stepwell, Ahmedabad 🇮🇳 The Adalaj Stepwell has such beautiful stone carvings on it. They are so intricate that you can see the painstaking work the artisans had done to build this masterpiece. This 5 storey deep Stepwell or ‘Vav’ as the Gujaratis call it has 3 architectural styles- Indian, Jain and Islamic. The flowers of Islamic architecture are precisely placed next to Jain and Hindu designs making them look like one. The well is octagonal is shape and built in the Solanki Architectural style. The Solanki Style can mostly be found in the state of Gujarat bearing a similar resemblance to architecture in Rajasthan.
Building wells deep into the ground, expose the ground water. Digging really deep wells also reduces the evaporation, due to lack of sunlight.
King Rana Veer Singh however had an eye for detail. He didn’t just want to build a stepwell but a beautiful ornate architectural masterpiece.
After he commissioned what might be his greatest legacy, the neighbouring Islamic King Mehmud Begada waged war on Dandai Desh. King Rana Veer Singh had to put on his armour and enter the battlefield. Unfortunately he was never to return again, at least alive.
As was the custom, the Kingdom of Dandai Desh fell into the hands of Mehmud Begada.
King Rana Veer Singh’s widow was Rudabai. She was, as normal Indian legends go, known for her beauty. Instead of drinking poison and killing herself after the death of her husband, she met with Mehmud Begada.
Begada was immediately taken with her beauty and proposed marriage to her. Seizing this opportunity, Rudabai said yes…… but that was not the end of the story, after all she had a condition for Begada.
Rudabai agreed to marry Mehumud Begada if he finished her deceased husband’s stepwell first. She believed it to be his last dying wish, to create this beautiful ‘Vav.’
Begada, without giving it much thought agreed. He set his men to work, the best artisans he could find.
Within a short span of a year, he created a stunning 5 storey stepwell. The time taken was unprecedented. The work King Rana Veer Singh had commenced in 1498 was completed in 1499.
Begada is said to have called the artisans and asked “Would you build a similar structure again?” The artists agreed to put their skills to greater use for their King. But they had just talked themselves to their deaths.
Never wanting another piece like this Vav to be created, Begada sent these artists to the gallows. These artists however were buried next to the masterpiece they created, explaining the presence of tombs next to the Vav.
When Begada told his soon to be bride that he had completed his task, Rudabai was ecstatic. She went to see this incredible masterpiece- her deceased husband’s dream brought to life. She admired the architecture and the detailed stone work.
She went closer and closer to see the water down below and just before anyone knew what was happening, Radabai jumped right into the water, to her death. Her shrewd plan had been a success. Rudabai had just proved that she wasn’t just a beauty to be admired at but a loyal queen with a strong tact.
She had managed to make Begada do as her husband had pleased and complete his wish of building this stepwell. And in the end she had scarified her life instead of yielding to the man who took away her happiness.
After Rudabai’s tragic end, Begada decided to let the Vav be instead of destroying it in his fury. Maybe it was real grief, or he might have been truly in love with Rudabai but above all I believe, he might have been in love with this beautiful architectural marvel he had finished.
The Vav in its behalf has served Adalaj really well throughout history and even today.
Long after Mehmud Begada, the Adalaj Ni Vav became an integral part of every person who lived around Adalaj.
Travellers would seek shelter from the sweltering sun. The women would gather here to collect water and sit chatting in the shade till the sun’s rays were a little less harsh.
The Vav soon found itself to be a community centre. Traders set up temporary stalls, people came here to drink water, rest and spread the latest gossip.
The huge area around the steps facilitated these activities. But as always times change.
As fresh potable water reached homes through water pipelines, the Vav saw its daily visitors leave and never return. In their place however came a plethora of tourists. They would come to admire the stunning work Rana Veer Singh and Mehmud Begada left behind.
The beautiful Hindu, Jain and Islamic designs are assimilated like one on to the ‘Vav’ walls. They speak of a time when the King who build this grand structure was religiously tolerant.
The Solanki style architecture which trickled down in Gujarat from the Solanki dynasty, descendants of the Chalukyas, can be seen at play here. The Adalaj Ni Vav is often called the Rudabai Vav after the great Queen without whom it wouldn’t be here today.
Three staircases welcome visitors onto the first floor.
From here you can make out the octagonal shape of the stepwell. The beautiful detailed and intricate work on the walls hits you at once- its breathtaking and well preserved over 519 years!
One of these beautiful edifices depict a Tree of Life, Kalpvirksh and the Water of Life in the Ami Kumbhor. The leaves carved out of stone are really beautiful. This entire work is carved out of a single stone!
This Hindu and Jain relief work also gives way to flower patterns which are typical of Islamic architecture.
This absolutely ‘tophole’ work of art pulls tourists 18 kilometres from the city of Ahmedabad and into a forgotten era where step wells formed an important aspect of every Gujuratis’ life besides the enticing story of loss, love and tragedy the Adalaj Ni Vav has to tell.
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