A journey like no other, from Patan to the 100 rupee banknote: Rani ki Vav

It is said that Egypt gave pyramids to the world, and India gave stepped wells. India gave a lot of other things to the world too (that are showcased in the museums all over) but that’s a topic for some other day. Today, let’s talk about stepped wells that are believed to have originated in our incredible country, India.

When we talk about stepped wells or Baoris or Vavs or Baolis, there are a few that are always mentioned:

1. Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi

2. Chand Baori, Abhaneri, Jaipur

3. Rani ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat

The first one became popular when the movie PK was released. The second one rose to international fame when scenes of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ were shot there. And the third one became the pride of the nation when the RBI decided to print the motif on the 100 rupee currency note back in 2016. Interestingly that wasn’t the first time I came to know of the Vav. I have seen it before on posters and wall art pieces, and always had it pinned on my itinerary for the time when I visit Gujarat. For years, I planned a trip to Gujarat, but it couldn’t materialise, until it did. And Rani ki Vav was the first place I visited.

What’s so special about the place?

Well, what’s so special about YOU other than the fact that you are breathing Oxygen, adding on to the world’s carbon emissions & probably busy showcasing your picture-perfect life on Social Media?! Sorry, kidding! I am no different. And probably you ain’t doing some of it. 🙂

1. Rani ki Vav is special because of a lot of reasons. The first one is obvious of course. It’s a stepped well. And stepped wells are unique & special anyway for their sheer capacity to collect water, provide water in summers or droughts & serve as a common social point (An adda of those times).

2. What’s also interesting about the Vav is that it was built by a queen (a rani) for her husband. Yeah, seriously. So, if you thought that only kings built stuff for their wives, enter India. Here, both kings & queens build monuments & stepped wells for their partners. It was built on the orders of Queen Udaymati for her husband King Bhimdev I, in the 11th century.

3. It’s the only stepped well that’s been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, and rightly so. Take one look at its carvings & you won’t forget these at least in this lifetime. The craftsmanship is exquisite. By the way, it was also recognised as the cleanest heritage site sometime back.

Legend has it…

…that there’s a tunnel beneath the Vav that connects the place to a nearby town, Sidhpur. It’s also believed that the stepped well had medicinal plants & its water could cure diseases.

What’s absolutely spectacular is the architecture.

It’s designed in an inverted temple style. There are seven levels of stairs to reach the circular well. You would also find multi-storeyed pavillions in between. And if that wasn’t enough, every wall, pillar, column, bracket & beam is decorated & carved.

This place is the Instagram feed of old times. If you notice the carvings, you will see everyday things, gods and women. At so many places, you will see figures/ carvings inspired by mythological & religious stories. All incarnations of Lord Vishnu can be found here. There are so many other carvings too depicting women in different situations such as applying lip colour, adjusting clothes, looking at themselves in a mirror. Somebody carved their dreams too probably. Because you see many apsaras (celestial women) & everything that apsaras do. And not just apsaras, our mythological characters – Nagkanya & Yogini are here too. You can spend hours & hours checking out this Instagram-like feed from the 11th century & your heart would still want more.

Rani ki Vav was buried for decades because of floods in the Saraswati river that flows nearby. Archaeological Survey of India found it, restored it & made every effort to preserve it. And today, Rani ki Vav is another jewel in the already heavy, already sparkling crown of India’s heritage.

If you plan to visit Gujarat, do take a halt in Patan & visit Rani ki Vav. Because why not?!


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