Adalaj ni Vav

Thanks to the efforts of loads of bloggers, tourists, history and architecture enthusiasts, as well as Gujarat Tourism Department; the Adalaj ni Vac has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Also called as Rudabai ni Vav, this stepwell is located in the village of Adalaj, close to the city of Ahmedabad. Built in 1499 by Mahmud Begada for his queen Rudabai, wife of Veersinh, the Vaghela chieftain, the stepwell is a living example of Indian style of architecture with Islamic iconography architecture work, with intricate carvings all over its five storeys. The stepwells were once integral to the semi-arid regions of Gujarat, as they provided for drinking, washing and bathing. They were also venues for colorful festivals and sacred rituals.


The history of the Adalaj ni Vav is established by an inscription in Sanskrit found on a marble slab positioned in a recess on the first floor, from the eastern entry to the well. Its construction was started by Rana Veersinh of the Vaghela dynasty of Dandai Desh, but he was killed in a war, and after that Mahmud Begada of the neighbouring state built it in an Indo-Islamic style. The inscription also carries a glowing description of the well, after which the queen is praised in the next few verses, and the total expense of the construction is quoted as “5,00,111 tankas” or a little over Rs. 5 lakh.

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Legend has it that in the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty, a Hindu ruler, reigned over the territory then known as Dandai Desh. His kingdom was attacked by neighbouring kingdom’s Muslim ruler – Mahmud Begada. The Rana was killed and his territory was annexed by Begada. Rana Veer Singh’s beautiful widow – Rani Roopba was in deep grief at the death of her husband, but agreed to the marriage proposal sent forth by Begada. However, she lay down one condition for acceptance that Begada would complete the building of the stepwell. Begada was so enamoured by Roopba’s beauty that he got the entire stepwell’s construction completed in a record time. Once the construction was complete, Begada demanded that the marriage take place as had been agreed upon. The Queen Roopba, who had achiever her aim of getting the stepwell built which was started by her husband for her; circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and jumped into the well ending the saga as a mark of devotion to her husband.

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The vav is built in sandstone in Solanki style of architecture. It is octagonal on top with large number of intricately carved pillars.  It is dug quite deep so as to access ground water at very deep levels, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in water levels. 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. At the bottom of the well is a square stepped floor in the shape of a funnel extending to the lowest plane. This is chiseled into a circular well. Above the square floor, columns, beams, wall and arched openings spiral around, a feature that continues to the top. The top part of the well, however, is a vertical space open to the sky. The four corners of the square are strengthened with stone beams, set at 45 degrees angle. The motifs of flowers and graphics of Islamic architecture blend very well with the symbols of Hindu and Jain gods carved at various levels of the well. The dominant carvings on the upper floors are of elephants. The Islamic architectural style could be attributed to the Muslim king Begda who built it. The walls are carved with women performing daily chores such as churning of buttermilk, adorning themselves, scenes of performance of dancers and musicians, and the King overlooking all these activities. An interesting depiction carved from a single block of stone is of the Ami Khumbor (symbolic pot of the water of life) and the Kalp Vriksha (a tree of life). Also seen is a fresco of navagraha or nine planets. These depictions are said to attract villagers for worship during marriage and other ritualistic ceremonies. The temperature inside the well is said to be about five degrees lower than the outside hot summer temperatures. This encouraged the women who came to fetch water to spend more time in the cool climes here. They stayed to worship the gods and goddesses and gossip.

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The Adalaj ni Vav is open from 6 am to 6 pm every day, but the visiting hours are from 8 am to 7 pm. You can go to Lal Darwaja or Geeta Mandir, from where you can get a shared auto or a bus to Adalaj village (tell them beforehand that you would be visiting the vav). A shared auto could be Rs. 30-40, while the bus will be even cheaper. You can also take an auto directly from anywhere in Ahmedabad, or take a radio cab. The non-shared auto could be Rs. 200-300 minimum. The journey would be 45 minutes to an hour.

One Comment Add yours

  1. bhavipatel says:

    Reblogged this on blackbeautyandme.

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