I just realised there are hardly any travelogues about Ahmedabad on my blog. That is unfair, considering that the city has so much to offer travellers! So, I set out to rectify this and present to you the first in a series of posts about my hometown, the lovely Ahmedabad. This one is about the stepwell in Adalaj, a short distance from the city.
‘Adalaj ni vav‘, as it is called in Gujarati, is a stepwell located in the village of Adalaj, about 18 km away from Ahmedabad. It is a beautiful piece of Solanki architecture, one that is quite popular with the tourists who visit Ahmedabad. Flowers, leaves, animals, birds, scenes from court life, scenes from domestic life, forms from Islam and Hinduism – these are some of the things that have been depicted in the intricate carvings that grace the many sandstone columns of the stepwell, carvings that have withstood the test of time, largely, and which are sure to take one’s breath away.
The stepwell is five stories deep, and was constructed in the year 1499 by a Muslim ruler, Mohammed Begda. Built in those days to collect rainwater, with the intention of putting it to good use later, the well has hardly any water now. Another reason to build the stepwell was for it to serve as a resting place for traders and pilgrims. Apparently, localites as well as travellers from far away places would make a pit stop at the well, to quench their thirst, and to meet up with other people, sometimes to further trade! Fascinating, right?
Apparently, thanks to the depth of the well, the temperature inside was significantly cooler than that outside. This encouraged the women visiting the well to fetch water to stay for longer periods of time, worshipping the gods and goddesses depicted on the walls and talking to each other.
A smell of damp and flocks and flocks of pigeons rule the place today but, otherwise, it is clean and well-maintained.
The beautiful carvings and the jharokhas that are a part of the stepwell make it a favourite destination for photographers.
The legend behind the construction of the stepwell is very interesting, though tragic. It is believed that Rana Veer Singh, the Hindu king who ruled what is now Ahmedabad, began the construction of the stepwell for his beloved beautiful wife, Rani Roopba. Mohammed Begda, the Muslim ruler of a neighbouring kingdom, invaded Rana Veer Singh’s territory and the latter ended up getting killed in the war that ensued. Begda was charmed by the beauty of Roopba, the former king’s widow, and proposed marriage to her. The former queen agreed, on the condition that Begda would complete the construction of the stepwell that her husband had started. Begda had the well constructed in as short a time as possible, in the hopes of marrying Roopba soon. Roopba, however, had other plans. She jumped into the well and ended her life, making explicit her unwillingness to marry Begda. For reasons of his own, Begda let the stepwell stand as it was, and did not deface it in any way.
Another popular legend is attached to the six tombs that can be seen adjacent to the stepwell. These are believed to be the tombs of the six chief masons who constructed the well. Apparently, Begda was highly impressed with the beauty of the stepwell, and asked the masons if they would be able to construct a replica. Begda was enraged when the masons said that that could be done, and ordered for them to be killed immediately.
Steeped in rich history, Adalaj ni vav is poetry in sandstone, definitely worth a visit if you plan to be in Gujarat.
I wonder what stories those walls, those columns could tell, if only they could speak! What events have they been witness to, over all these years?