Rani Ki Vav is a stepwell in the town of Patan in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is situated on the Saraswati River’s banks. It was built by Udayamati, daughter of Khengara of Saurashtra, queen and spouse of Chalukya monarch Bhima I in the 11th century. The Archaeological Survey of India rediscovered it in the 1940s and restored it in the 1980s after it had been silent for many years.
Since 2014, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stepwell is divided into seven flights of stairs with sculptural panels; more than 500 primary sculptures and over a thousand smaller sculptures combine religious, mythical, and secular images. It was built as an inverted temple stressing the purity of water.
History of Rani ki Vav
Rani Udayamati of the Chalukya Dynasty built the stepwell in 1063 to honor her husband, Bhimdev I. Udayamati, the daughter of Naravaraha Khangara, built this stepwell in Patan, according to a 1304 composition by Jain monk Merutunga. The stepwell was commissioned in 1063 and completed 20 years later, according to the same composition.
Only the shaft and a few pillars were visible when archaeologists Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited it in the 1890s when it was totally buried under silt. The stepwell was rediscovered in the 1940s and renovated in the 1980s by the Archeological Survey of India. Since 2014, the stepwell has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rani ki vav is regarded as one of Gujarat’s best and largest examples of stepwell architecture. It was constructed at the pinnacle of stepwell craftsmanship and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, demonstrating mastery of this complex technique as well as the beauty of detail and proportions. Rani ki vav architecture and sculptures are identical to those of Mount Abu’s Vimala Vasahi temple and Modhera’s Sun temple. It’s known as a Nanda-style stepwell. It is 65 meters (213 feet) long, 20 meters (66 feet) broad, and 28 meters (92 feet) deep. The fourth level is the deepest, leading to a rectangular tank measuring 9.5 meters by 9.4 meters (31 feet) at a depth of 23 meters (75 ft).
The entrance is on the east side, while the well is on the west side, with a shaft 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter and 30 meters (98 feet) deep. The stairwell is separated into seven levels, each leading to a deep circular well. A stepped corridor is divided into sections by pillared multistory pavilions at regular intervals. Carvings and scroll work adorn the walls, pillars, columns, brackets, and beams.
Beautiful and delicate statues and sculptures adorn the niches on the side walls. The steps have a total of 212 pillars. Over 500 major sculptures and over a thousand minor sculptures combine religious, mythological, and secular iconography, with many referencing literary works. Stepwell’s embellishment shows the entire universe, which is populated by gods and goddesses, celestial beings, men and women, monks, priests, and laypeople; animals, fishes, and birds, both real and fantastical; and plants and trees.
The stepwell is built as an inverted temple or underground shrine. It reflects the sanctity of water and has spiritual importance. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, goddesses (Devi), Ganesha, Kubera, Lakulisha, Bhairava, Surya, Indra, and Hayagriva are among the Hindu deities depicted in the stepwell sculptures. Sheshashayi Vishnu (Vishnu reclined on thousand hooded serpent Shesha in the cosmic ocean), Vishwarupa Vishnu (Cosmic form of Vishnu), twenty-four forms, and Dashavatara (ten incarnations) of Vishnu are among the sculptures linked with Vishnu.
There are statues of deities and their families, including Brahma-Savitri, Uma-Maheshwar, and Lakshmi-Narayan. Ardhanarishwara, as well as a significant number of goddesses such as Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati, Chamunda, Durga/Mahishasura-Mardini with twenty hands, Kshemankari, Suryani, and Saptamatrikas, are notable among the other sculptures. There are other depictions of the Navagraha (nine planets).
A great number of celestial entities exist (Apsaras). Apsara is depicted putting lipstick to her lips or munching on a fragrant twig as a man tickles her feet in one sculpture. A sculpture of an Apsara warding off a monkey clinging to her leg and tearing at her garments, revealing her sensuous figure, may be found on the northern side of the third-level pavilion. A naked woman with a snake around her neck, most likely depicting an erotic motif, stands at her feet. There is a statue of Nagkanya (serpent princess) with long hair and a swan, as well as sculptures of cosmic dancers in classical dance poses.
A vast number of sculptures depict women going about their daily lives and occupations. A woman combing her hair, fixing her earring, and looking in the mirror is depicted in one sculpture. A woman writing a letter, a young woman with a scorpion mounting her right leg and her garments sliding down unwittingly, a young woman pulling a dwarf-like man’s beard, and a woman holding a fish plate with a snake around her leg and reaching out to fish are among the other sculptures.
A swan catches droplets of water falling from her hair as if they were pearls in one sculpture depicting a young woman coming out of the bath with her wet hair and a swan captures droplets of water falling from her hair as if they were pearls.These female sculptures are decked out in bangles, earrings, necklaces, waist girdles, anklets, and other jewelry, as well as fine clothing and well-combed hair. They portray a wide range of expressions and feelings. They signify sexuality as well as love in its most beautiful and alluring form.
A woman holding her infant and pointing to the moon to divert his attention, a mother hoisting her child high to let him select a mango from a tree, and a lady in a mango orchard with children are among the sculptures depicting maternal love. In the good shaft, there are a series of ornate cantilevered brackets that gradually increase in size. On the walls, kalpavriksha carvings depict fertility and nature worship, while the basements and capitals of pillars are adorned with kirtimukhas and makaras.
Geometric lattice patterns and decorations reflecting those from Patola’s local textile history may be found on the northern side wall of the stepwell’s entry. They could have been inspired by the wood sculptures and temple ceilings. Horses, elephants, and lions are among the animals depicted on the pillars and basement moldings.
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- By road- Intercity buses take 3.5 hours from Ahmedabad to Patan and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are a little faster, but they’re not as comfortable.
- By air- The closest airport from Patan is Ahmedabad, situated at a distance of 125 km. The airport is connected to International and Indian cities. Patan has a railway station for easy access.
- By rail- Patan has its own railway station. The closest railway station is Mehsana, which is an hour away from Patan via bus.
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