Ancient India was known for its Stepwells which were filled with architectural wonders. Those who are not aware of what are Stepwells, let me explain you. The Stepwells which are usually in the form or well or pond, is a structure where one can reach the water stored in it by descending a set of steps. So a Stepwell consists of several floors or storeys below the ground.
Today let us make an attempt to know few of the amazing stepwells, which is situated in Vadodara, city of Gujarat. Firstly, let us know about the stepwell Sevasi Vav/Vidhyadhar Vav.
Sevasi Vav (Stepwell) was built to commemorate a spiritual leader Vidhyadhar, who was most respected in the Sevasi village for his works.
The Sevasi Vav which was constructed over 500 years ago is one among the oldest stepwells found in the country. This architectural master piece has seven storeys below the ground level and the construction of it was completed using the money from the state treasury.
Each and every storey of this stepwell has amazing art works on its wall. Carvings of leaf patterns can be found in the second storey if the stepwell. Few of the walls even have detailed carvings of the festivals celebrated during the time by a community.
A report states that “young girls decked in gold were sacrificed at Sevasi stepwell on full moon nights, for prosperity”. The same report adds “A stone masonry at the entrance has a name inscribed in Devnagri script. The gate has two tigers carved on the left and two elephants on the right”.
What is another interesting fact is that there are several stepwells in and around the city. Few of the prominent stepwells if Vadodara are Khanderao Stepwell, Koyali Stepwell, Tandalja Stepwell, Navlakhi Stepwell, Hetampura Stepwell, Kelanpur Stepwell, Sayaji Vav, Sevavsi (Vidhyadhar) Vav, Saptamukhi Vav (Dabhoi), Dumad Chowkdi Vav, Urmi School Vav, Asoj Vav, Gorwa Stepwell and Kadak Bazaar Vav which is now demolished.
Another prominent stepwell is Navlakhi Vav which is located in the Laxmi Vilas Palace compound. This stepwell was constructed in the 15th century. Brahmi inscriptions which are found in one of the lower floors of the stepwell states that the men the stepwell were Suryaraj Kalchuri, a general of the Gurjar kingdom and son-in-law of King Daddh 1.
The construction cost of this Vav (stepwell) was really huge 9 lakh gold coins were spend 600 years ago for its construction. Later on it was further developed by Maharaja Sayajirao. This stepwell served as a source of drinking water in the Lukshmi Villas Palace.
Most of the stepwells currently don’t have water in it. But there’s one stepwell which still has water and the name of it is Tandalja Vav which was built in the 18th century. This stepwell not just consists of amazing carving but even paintings of gods and animals.
Stepwells in India is of high significance. It not just depicted the cultural of the region but also helped the people of the dynasty at the times of drought. The designs of the stepwells were made in such a way that it had capacity to with stand any intensify of earthquakes.
Authors V Lautman and D Gupta in their book titled “The Vanishing Stepwells of India” have stated that “Some of the most stunning architectural structures in India are to be found below ground: these are its stepwells, ancient water stores. Stepwells are unique to India and from around the 3rd century CE were built throughout the country, particularly in the arid western regions. Excavated several stories underground in order to reach the water table, these cavernous spaces not only provided water all year long but also fulfilled other functions; they offered pilgrims and other travelers a respite from the heat, and became places in which villagers could socialize. Stepwell construction evolved so that, by the 11th century, the wells were amazingly complex feats of architecture and engineering”.