Adalaj Stepwell, Gujarat

The Adalaj  stepwell or Vav, as it is called in Gujrati was built in Samvat 1555 (AD. 1498) by Ruda, wife of Vaghela chief Virasimha. The structure is built in Solanki style of architecture, with Islamic influence, and regarded to be the only best architectural wonder of its kind with three entrances leading visitors to the stepped corridor. The length of the step-well is 75.3 metres, consists of five storeys, each of which is uniquely designed with beautiful carvings all over the walls and columns.

The oblong step-well runs from south to north. Entry to the Vav is from south through stairs on three sides which descend into a spacious landing with octagonal opening supported on eight pillars. At each of the four corners of landing platform is a small room with oriel window.

The first few levels still have reference to the sky through an aperture, while the subsequent lower levels become further enclosed with only walls remaining in the cone of vision. The perception of enclosure is further reinforced by the decreasing intensity of light. The brightness of light subdues as one progresses deeper making the space progressively vertical, cozier and confined.

From the landing platform the corridor begins with gently descending staircase leading to octagonal well-shaft on north. The stepped corridor has a parapet wall at ground level. the octagonal shaft is five-storeyed. Its upper four storey’s are entered through spiral staircases on western and eastern sides. The corridor railing around octagonal shaft, pillars , pilasters, entablatures, lintels and other architectural areas are profusely decorated.

A panel showing nine planets (navagrahas ) is found over a door in second storey on eastern side of octagonal shaft.

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 walls.  Among sculptures particular mention may be made of a king seated on a stool under parasol with two chauri – bearers in attendance, erotic scenes, scene showing churning of buttermilk , bhairava, female dancers and musicians, various birds and animals like gaja -sardula, symbolic representation of mother goddess and medallions, half- medallions , scroll motifs evolving out of Kirtimukkha etc.

The five storied step-well was believed to be built for the purpose of providing water facility for drinking, washing and bathing  to the semi arid regions of Gujarat. Also, these wells served as a meeting place during various festivals, celebrations and sacred rituals.