Three Indian states with picturesque stepwells

The forgotten oases of ancient India


January 21, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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Discover these engineering marvels that are also the finest examples of utility architecture in India. Dating back to as far as 600 AD, these stepwells in various corners of India are a delight for photographers, history buffs, travellers and explorers.


The westernmost Indian state of Gujarat is home to a number of stepwells. The Adalaj ki Vav, Modhera, Rani ki Vav and Dada Harir ki Vav are only a few. Although serving similar purposes, the stories behind their construction, their architectural styles and utility scales are all different.



The Adalaj ki Vav in Gujarat is set in a remote location away from the bustling city life


The Adalaj ki Vav, for instance, is one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in India, fusing Hindu and Jain symbols with Islamic design patterns. On the other hand, the walls of Harir ki Vav have Sanskrit and Arabic scripts inscribed on them. While all of them mostly served as places of respite, the stepwell at Modhera Sun Temple also served as a platform for dance and cultural performances.




Like most stepwells, the well in this vav is located in the westernmost end of the property



These stepwells are gradually fetching the lost attention and importance with the Rani ki Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) even being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. This particular vav is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural, artistic panels with more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combining religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works.






Neemrana ki Baoli, Chand Baoli, Rani ji ki Baoli and Mahila Bagh Jhalra are some of the stepwells in this northern Indian state. While some like the Neemrana ki Baoli remain lesser explored and now dilapidated, the Chand Baoli has already risen to international fame.



The Chand Baoli has a geometric design that is rarely found in architecture

The Chand Baoli or Baori was the location for Bruce Wayne aka Christian Bale’s prison escape in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. The baoli is one of the largest stepwells in the world with 3,500 narrow steps, arranged in perfect symmetry, leading the way to the bottom. About 64 feet deep, it is India’s largest and deepest stepwell with 13 floors. It was built in the 9th century, majorly for water harvesting in the arid region.

Talking of the Rani ji ki Baoli, it is one of the more than 50 stepwells that dot the Bundi town and the Mahila Bagh Jhalra in the corners of the Jodhpur city remains forgotten.




One of the best preserved stepwells in India: Agrasen ki Baoli

The Chand Baoli isn’t the only one which has caught the eyes of film directors. The Agrasen ki Baoli, in the heart of the Indian capital, became a star with Bollywood blockbuster ‘PK’.  The baoli is one of the best preserved stepwells in Delhi and is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The baoli is four-level and 108-step deep. On its west corner, above the flight of stairs is a small mosque, which is now battered.

While the Rajaon ki Baoli and Gandhak ki Baoli are Delhi’s oldest surviving stepwells, the Red Fort Baoli and the Firoz Shah Kotla Baoli are other stepwells that tell of the capital’s history.


While there are stepwells in other parts of India too, these water monuments are found in maximum numbers in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Long ago, even Delhi housed over hundred baolis but unfortunately most of them succumbed to time and carelessness. Reminiscent of culture, history and tales of the past, these unique stepwells, amongst many more across India, await to be explored.

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