An ancient culture and society with preserved architectural wonders, India is home to many engineering wonders. Lesser known in comparison to the revered Taj Mahal or Lotus Temple are the stepwells. In the dry, desert states such as Rajasthan and Gujarat, water was and continues to be an on-going problem. A solution to this, one that was developed in antiquated times, are the numerous stepwells, many of which have been expertly preserved until today, although no longer deemed sanitary enough to drink from.
Many of the stepwells (baori) that dot the northern part of India date back to medieval times. With religion and mythology playing a deep and respected part of Hindu culture, water is known as the boundary between heaven and earth, otherwise known as tirtha (pilgrim). These stepwells became manmade tirtha, and provided not just a source of drinking and bathing water, but a sanctuary for praying and meditation. Outside of the symbolism, the true enchantment lies in the construction of these wells. Rather than just the common round opening into the ground, these wells are intricately carved, mathematically calculated with dizzying stairs, forming a graduating incline. Often with temples built into their structure, the wells are excellent examples of religion blending with function. Some of the notable stepwells that are famous and worth a visit are Adalaj Vav near Ahmedabad, Chand Baori near Jaipur, Agrasen Ki Baoli near New Delhi, and the Rani Ki Ji Baori in Rajasthan, which is known as the “city of stepwells” as more than 50 wells are present here, with the Rani Ki Ji (Queen’s Stepwell) being the most famous.
Take a walk through ancient times and find peace and amazement in the symmetry of the stepwells of India. How many will you get to?