It is said there are 100 odd stepwells in the state of Gujarat, also known as vav, the local term for stepwell. The vavs are traditional, subterranean water harvesting systems which doubled up as cool resting places for the villagers as well as the visitors.
The stepwells here are not the ordinary stepwells, but are architectural marvels which have evolved in their designs since their inception some time around the third millennium BC. A well known one amongst them would be the Rani Ki Vav, which has even found its way to the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.
As a matter of convenience, most of the popular sites in Gujarat are spread across in three directions from Ahmedabad. For those of you who are looking for a short trip or a weekend getaway, head to these architectural wonders which are found in the Central part of Gujarat and also in the Northern and Southern sides of the state.
To make a trip to all the stepwells around the state would take you a longer time of say 15 to 20 days, while some can be visited within a day. Read on to know more about these architectural marvels of Saurashtra.
1. Wankaner Palace Stepwell – Rajkot
The Wankaner Palace is an example of how well a heritage structure can be preserved. The palace now has been converted into a heritage stay and has been renamed as the Royal Oasis Hotel. This beautiful palace is home to an early 20th century stepwell which too has been restored to its former glory and can be seen. Drop by at the Royal Oasis Wankaner and request to see the stepwell and be marvelled.
Ahmedabad is approximately about 200 km away from Wankaner. Drive further down for about 100 km to Surendranagar and visit the Wild Ass Sanctuary which is spread across a vast area.
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2. Adi Kadi Vav and Navghan Kuvo
Junagadh is home to two stepwells in the state of Gujarat, which are Adi Kadi Vav and the Navghan Kuvo which are cut out from rocks. The Navghan Kuvo is approximately around 1000 years old and the Adi Kadi Vav was built in the 15 th century.
Junagadh is located at a distance of 330 km from Ahmedabad. Take a slight detour of about 90 km and head to the beach temple of Somnath and also the town of Porbandar, the hometown of Gandhi.
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3. Navlakhi Vav – Vadodara
The beautiful Laxmi Vilas Palace is home to the 15th century Navlakhi Vav. Named as Navlakhi, as it is believed that nine lakh gold coins were spent to build this magnificent structure which earlier provided water to the entire Laxmi Vilas Palace, but now irrigates the golf course next to it. An interesting story is that during wartime, when the palace was being attacked, the entire army hid inside the vav and led the defence.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace is located at a distance of 115 km from Ahmedabad.
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4. Geban Shah's Vav – Champaner
The World Heritage Site of Champaner lies in ruins and so does the stepwell. The structures exhibit a beautiful mixture of Hindu and Islamic architecture. Apart from Geban Shah's Vav there is another broken stepwell located close by called the Helical stepwell; although it is not in a very good condition but is a beautiful structure to be visited.
Champaner is about 150 km from Ahmedabad.
5. Modhera Surya Kund
A two hour drive in the northern direction from Ahmedabad through the Gujarat state highway would take you to Modhera Sun temple, which hosts the Modhera Dance Festival held every year in the month of January. The temple has a stepwell which is known as Surya Kund, though it looks more like a temple tank in which people take the ritualistic bath before worshiping the Sun god.
The structure at present is used as a resting place and conserves water. The Sun Temple is a must visit for its architecture; the Sabha Mantap which is a majestic assembly hall and which has 52 beautifully carved pillars is a must-see sight.
The Modhera Sun Temple is 100 km away from Ahmedadbad.
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6. Rani Ki Vav – Patan
Patan is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rani Ki Vav and also to the gorgeous Patola saree. The vav gets its name from the bereaved Queen Udaymati who belonged to the Solanki dynasty, and who built this humongous structure as a memorial for her husband King Bhimadeva in the 11th century.
The main theme of the stepwell is the Dashavatar, the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The stepwell measures 64 m in length, 20 m in width and 27 m in its depth. The area was being excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India when they found the sculptures and idols which survived a massive flood.
Patan is located at a distance of 130 km for Ahmedabad.
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7. Dada Hari Ni Vav – Ahmedabad
Dada Hari Ni Vav hosts of some fine carvings with ornate stone columns, yet the place remains neglected to a large extent. The vav is located five stories below the ground and the bottommost floor remains cool and well lit on a hot day. The stepwell was built in the year 1499 AD by Sultan Mahmud Begada's harem supervisor.
The Dada Hari Ni Vav is located at a distance of 60 km from Ahmedabad.
8. Adalaj Ni Vav – Gandhinagar
The Adalaj Ni Vav is the most popular stepwell in Gujarat which is filled with locals, tourists and photographers who are into fashion and wedding shots. The stepwell was built by Queen Rudabai who was the wife of the Vaghela chief Veersinh, in the year 1499. The place is five stories deep and its walls are filled with beautiful floral carvings along with sculptures of various deities.
PC: Sagar Joshi