A few weeks back, I had visited the Adalaj Ni Vav which is located approximately 12 km outside of the north end of Ahmedabad city. Being one of the prominent historic establishments, tourists consider the stepwell as a top choice to visit in the city. The impressive architectural marvel of the 15th century is a spectacular blend of Indo-Islamic architecture and design.
What is vav?
A vav in Gujarati means a stepwell is also known as a water temple. It involves a series of steps that lead down to a well of water.
There are two Vavs in Ahmedabad – Adalaj Ni Vav and Dada Harir Vav. The arrival hall at the Ahmedabad airport also showcases attractive glimpses of the Adalaj Ni Vav.
Importance of stepwells in India
Due to the dry landscape in northern India, water shortages were a major issue in cities years ago. Hence, stepwells were built to collect water and act as a reservoir for communities.
Soon, the Vavs became a place where locals would meet and chat, seek shade from the heat, collect water to bathe and wash clothes. In Gujarat, communities also use these stepwells for festivals and religious rituals.
About Adalaj Ni Vav
Adalaj Ni Vav or the Rudabai Stepwell is an intricate 15th-century stepwell hidden away in the small village of Adalaj in the Gandhinagar district. King Rana Veer Singh and his wife Queen Rudabai or Roopba had built this Vav for the villagers to access water during the water crisis in those times.
The Vav is considered amongst the finest examples of Indian craftsmanship and was constructed in the Solanki architectural style. It is built octagonal on top with several intricately carved pillars and consists of five levels entirely made of sandstone. These levels were constructed large enough for locals and travellers to relax, socialize and congregate.
The well is dug deep to access groundwater considering the seasonal fluctuations in the water levels. When you go down near the well, you’ll feel almost five degrees cooler than the outside temperature and so it was a popular place to seek shade especially during the hot summer months.
The staircase leads down towards an octagonal well with intricately designed pillars between each of the levels. A unique feature of this stepwell is it’s the only one of its kind with three sets of entrance stairs.
The tragic story of the stepwell and its history
According to the legend, Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty had started this stepwell in the 15th century. He was married to the beautiful Queen Rudabai.
His people needed a place to access water and so he started to build the Vav for them. Unfortunately, before he could complete an Islamic king called Mehmud Begada waged war on his kingdom. Rana Veer Singh died in the battle and Mehmud Begada took over the throne and so the stepwell could not be completed.
According to the earlier traditions, when a king died his queen would perform Sati – the act of self-immolation to join their husband in the afterlife. The Muslim king asked Queen Roopba or Rudabai to marry him. She agreed to his proposal on the condition that he would first complete building the stepwell started by her late husband. The invader happily agreed and completed the construction of the stepwell.
Once completed, Begda reminded the queen of her promise to marry him, but she had achieved her objective of completing the stepwell started by her late husband and decided to end her life. She then circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and jumped into the well and ended her life as a mark of devotion to her husband. All these events are depicted on the walls of the well.
How to get there?
To reach Adalaj Ni Vav, you can hire a cab or autorickshaw from Ahmedabad. Also, you can book one from Uber and it takes almost 40 minutes to reach there. The first site you’ll see is the Adalaj Ambe Mata temple and behind the temple is the main entry gate, one of the three gates of the Vav.
Adalaj Stepwell timings and entry fees
The vav is open from 8:00am – 6:00pm for visitors. Earlier it was free of cost but now there is an entry fee of Rs.20 per person. You need to scan and pay online at the entrance of the stepwell. It’s managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and has an official ticket booth.
All that can you see here
Despite being more than 500 years old, the Vav has been maintained to great extent. However, the winding stairs of the Octagonal Vav aren’t open for visitors. Also, many levels have been closed off with spikes to stop accidents. You’re only allowed to walk down the staircase to the bottom of the well and make your way back up.
On a personal note, you’ll discover intricate carvings and tiny rooms that look like a balcony. I enjoyed sitting and relaxing a bit at this stunning place while admiring the architecture, carvings and symmetry of the stepwell.
- The Octagonal Vav – You need to go down to the bottom of the stepwell and have a look at the incredible architecture. The well is restricted so you can’t go inside but surely click photos from the stairs.
- Carvings – A lot of Indo-Islamic patterns are carved and beautifully displayed in the sandstone. The walls are carved with women doing their daily chores and musicians and dancers performing while the king overlooks these activities.
- Ami Khumbor – It is also known as the symbolic pot of the water of life. This carving has a pot with water coming out of it in all different directions.
- Kalp Vriksha – This is the tree of life and the finest piece of artwork.
- Navgraha – It represents the nine planets and is believed to protect the well and the people inside it from the evil spirits.
- Carved balcony – The little balcony with a window is great to capture some Instagram-worthy photos.
- The top part of the Vav
Adalaj Ni Vav is extremely famous and I would say you just can’t afford to miss visiting it. Moreover, the Vav offers an excellent opportunity to take photos of the marvellous architecture free of cost. You can get the best photos early around 8:00am when the crowd is quite less.
The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage City – Ahmedabad has many places to visit and admire the rich culture and traditions and explore many places for people who love to travel. Thanks to Gujarat Tourism for its humble efforts in actively promoting tourism in Ahmedabad with Adalaj Ni Vav as one of the major tourist attraction.
Note – As per the safety guidelines from the Government of India, it’s advisable to stay safe at home and avoid stepping outside without any necessity in these COVID-19 times.