Patan is a district in the state of Gujarat, located at 125kms distance from Ahmedabad (Current Capital of Gujarat). Patan was once the capital of the state in historic times located on the banks of the (lost) Saraswati River. Nestled in the hustle and bustle of the city Patan, lies an “Architectural Wonder” – Rani Ki Vav. It is also known as “Rani Ni Vav” in Gujarati local dialect. This is a 7 storeyed Magnificent Stepwell, which is built using scientific principles for storing water.
Back in 11th century, Udaymati, Queen of the King Bhimadev I from Solanki(Chalukya) Dynasty, expressed her desire to build a stepwell. This stepwell, she ordered to build is in the memory of her beloved husband.
Rani ki Vav is one of the
UNESCO World Heritage sites in India.
The new ₹100 rupee currency note has a picture of this stepwell.
Let’s have a visual tour of Stepwell
As you walk towards this site, it doesn’t appeal very much. Just a compound wall and some—Well Kept—landscaping work is done around it. The more you approach it, the more it starts appealing. When you reach the main entrance, the Jaw-Dropping view absorbs you in it. Perspective steps going deep down towards the well-shaft are accompanied by intricately carved idols of gods and goddesses. Each idol is as magnificent as if they are living things. The far end is of this stepwell—which is a well-shaft—is not even clearly visible from the first step.
Rani ki Vav was constructed as a religious as well as a functional structure. The expanse of this stepwell is roughly 1610 sq.m. and 70m length from the base of Toran—Sacred Gateway—to the inner edge of well-shaft. Its 23m in width and 28m in depth. Rani Ki Vav is constructed like an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water. It is built on the East-West axis, “Step-Corridor” being in the east and “Well” on the west.
Ceremonial Entrance (Toran Dwaar)
The first architectural object you see as you step down, is the remains of a pillar base. This evidently confirms the presence of Toran Dwaar – A Ceremonial Entrance. In 19th century, a survey was conducted for Rani Ki Vav. James Burgess and Henry Cousens were two archeologists who had mentioned about these pillars in the survey.
The Toran was comprised of 2 freely standing pillars, which were connected by an ornate arch at their upper sections. Towards the west side from this entrance, downward leading steps make a way to the edge of the well.
Architecture and Decorative Work
Rani ki vav is a seven storeyed and inverted temple like structure. It has 4 pavilions downwards from east to west and then lastly a Well Shaft. Below is a picture taken from first pavellion. You can see other 3 Pavilions as well. Rani ki Vav is a Maru-Gurjara style architecture. A style of “temple architecure” which is originated from the Gujarat & Rajasthan in historic times.
All the 7 levels were open for public and tourists were able to go down to the well. Then there was a powerful earthquake in Bhuj which rocked the state of Gujarat in 2001. After this earchquake, out of 7 levels, only 4 levels are left open for public to ensure the safety & security.
There is a great diversity of themes:
- Divine Figures: Devi or Goddess, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha in their respective incarnations and form
- Sacred & Mythical Representation Figures: Dikpalas, Sacred flora and fauna, Apsara, Nagkanya, Vasus and scenes from epics
- Reflection of Contemporary Society
Mahishasurmardini is one of the forms of a goddess “Durga” who is killing a demon called Mahishasur.
Sculptures in Rani ki Vav are displayed in a pattern, where main deities are displayed in niches. These main deities are flanked by semi divine figures like Apsaras, Nagkanya, Dikpalas and Yogini.
Sheshshayi Vishnu Sculpture
During medieval times in Gujarat, there was a tradition of installing “A Sheshshayi Vishnu” sculpture inside the Stepwell, Kunda or Temples. Which you can see in Modhera Sun Temple as well. Sheshshayi Vishnu is represented in 3 successive niches in 3 levels on the rear wall of the Well Shaft. One between the first and second pavillion on the niche of the north wall.
In addition to this, out of 24 forms of the lord Vishnu, following forms are present in Rani ki Vav:
Keshava, Narayana, Govinda, Vishnu, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Padmanabha, Damodar, Samkarsana, Aniruddha, Purusottama, Narsimha, Hari. Moreover 10 famous incarnations are also represented. But among those 10 incarnations; Varah, Narsimha, Vaman, Parshuram, Ram, Balram, Buddha and Kalki (future incarnation at the end of Kaliyug) are clearly identified in Rani ki Vav. Buddha is shown as an incarnation of the lord Vishnu here.
Here is a better closeup image. You can see Nav graha as well over Sheshshayi Vishnu.
A Bhairav—fierce form of the lord Shiv—is represented in a dancing pose here. If you take a closer look down on his right side, the dog is snatching a piece from the decapitated corpse. Licking the blood oozing from the freshly cut head that Bhairava is holding in his hand.
Brahma, Mahesh & Vishnu With Their Consort
When you reach near the well (at 4th pavillion) you can see the panel of “Brahma, Mahesh & Vishnu with Their Consort”. The Top left side of front wall is decorated with the idols of Tridev(Ttriple deity of Supreme Divinity in Hinduism). Their Vahan is also present near each of them, Swan, Bull and Garuda respectively.
On the Top-Right side of the front wall, you can see Ganesh with his Consort and then Maha-Lakshmi and Kuber idols are also present. These three are considered as Gods of Luck.
Other Sculptures in Rani ki Vav
- Dikpals (Guardians of Eight Directions) also appear on the walls of Rani ki Vav.
- 8 Vasus are present on the walls with human body and Cow head in folded hands (Namaskar position).
- Nav graha are represented in a complete set, over Sheshshayi Vishnu on the Well Shaft. Sun (Surya), Moon (Chandra), Mercury (Budha also known as Grahpati), Venus (Shukra), Mars (Mangal), Jupiter (Brihaspati), Saturn (Shani), Rahu and Ketu constitute Nine Planets called Nav Graha.
A Marble sculpture of 48cm height was recovered while de-silting in 1987-88. This sculpture has an inscription in devnagari(indian script) “Maharajani Shri Udayamati”. Due to time constraints, we did not get a chance to see this sculpture. Hence, have no idea where it is kept (May be in museum).
Rani Ki Vav is built using burnt bricks, lime mortar, and locally available “Dhrangadhra” stone. Larger blocks of stones were joined by Rosewood Dowels and placed on the ground, forming the floor of the steps and terraces.
A small glass plate was attached at several places where cracks are visible. These cracks were developed after Bhuj’s Earthquake. Upon asking about the purpose of these glass plates, our guide told us they are attached to keep the track of changes in such sections. When the stress on such sections will be increased, these glass plates will break and give an indication for safety.
Check our VIDEO on Rani Ki Vav
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Best destination for everyone (Kids and senior citizens must be careful while going down).
How to Reach
Nearest City is Ahmedabad (about 127 Km.) for all modes of transport i.e. Air, Railway and Bus. From Ahmedabad you can go by train up to Mehsana and then bus. Mehsana is 58 kms from Patan.
Best Time to Visit
You can visit throughout the year but in our opinion winter would be preferable.
It is open from 08.00 am to 6.00 pm
- ₹40 entry fee per person for Indian Citizens
- ₹600 For Foreigners
- Free for children below 15 Yrs
Note: Information of pricing/timing/season given here may differ or change so please confirm with the tourism department before visiting.
Things to Carry
- Rain Coats (In Monsoon) and Woolens (In Winter)
- Camera is allowed
- Your regular Medicines if any
Near by Places
- Sun Temple at Modhera , around 36 Kms.
History of Rani Ki Vav, Patan
Rani ki Vav is Built by Queen Udaymati in 11th Century, as a memorial of her husband, King Bhimadev I. King Bhimdev I is from Solanki Dynasty also known as Chalukya.
The site remained buried under the flood deposit from the River Saraswati for more than 600 years until it started to be cleared up by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1960s. The surveys (James Burgess and Henry Cousens) and travel accounts (British traveler Arthur Mallet, Colonel James Tod) of several persons acknowledge the presence of this property in the 19th century. As per records only Well Shaft and Toran were noticeable. Colonel James Tod mentions that the material from this stepwell was taken to build another stepwell in the modern part of Patan, Barot ni Vav. British Administrator A. K. Forbes also noted the condition of Rani ki Vav in the later half of the 19th century. Flooding and submergence of structure actually protected it from Islamic rulers from alterations. Conservation and preservation were undertaken simultaneously to the excavation.
During 1930s to the 1960s, initial conservation works were undertaken which later allowed for excavation of the silted parts of the site.
After Independence “Rani Ki Vav” was declared as a protected monument via Gazette and came under the custody of Archaeological Survey of India. When ASI took charge of the monument most of the upper part was in damaged condition. Toran mentioned by Burgess and Cousens was missing. Again conservation, excavation and preservation started in different phases and times from 1963-64 and finally completed in 2008 by the Archaeological Survey of India.