There are many monuments in India which were built by the mighty kings for their beloved wives. These symbols of love stand tall over centuries to remind us all of the power of love. Such monuments, though exceptional, are something we have become accustomed to. But, this monument is different as this was constructed by a queen in the memory of her deceased husband.
We are talking about Rani ki Vav, an amazing piece of architecture and heritage that has been recently recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, on 22 June 2014.
Rani ki Vav – The 31st Indian entrant to the World Heritage Sites list by UNESCO
It is believed that Rani ki Vav (Queen’s step well) near Patan, Gujarat was constructed during the 11th century in the memory of Bhimdev, son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anahilwada Pattan. The richly sculpted monument is considered a masterpiece dedicated to the king by his widowed wife Udayamati. The vav was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s.
If you are travelling here for the first time, you might get confused as you won’t see a tall museum or the remains of a ruin because it is built inside an opening in the ground, which makes it special. The east facing well constructed in seven storeys is approximately 64m long, 20m wide & 27m deep.
As you go down, you will see over 800 sculptures in the seven galleries, majority of which are devoted to lord Vishnu. It is amongst the finest step wells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.
The central level’s theme is “Dasavatars” (10 incarnations) of Vishnu and as you reach the water level, you will see a carving of Vishnu reclining on one thousand snake heads.
The 10 incarnations of Vishnu have been sculpted along the walls
Various pillars and walls which are beautifully sculpted in Maru-Gurjara architectural style are a mesmerizing sight. The lowermost level of the well is blocked by stones and silt now but earlier it was used as an escape route to the neighbouring villages.
It is one of the largest and the most sumptuous structures of its type. Rani-Ki-Vav is now considered to be the queen among the step wells of India. It is said that the size of the Rani Ki Vav is so huge that the tourists appear as ants climbing an anthill.
The well at Rani ki Vav, Patan
These vavs in ancient times were not only used for socializing and collecting water, but they also had great spiritual importance. They are mostly found in Gujarat and Rajasthan to store water during dry days. Started with a simple design, these vavs gradually became very complex, elaborate and huge.
Rani ki Vav was one of the five international heritage sites selected by the Scottish Ten team for digital preservation and scanned in 2011 for two weeks by them, along with CyArk and Archaeological Survey of India. You can view a 3D animation of the Vav created by them here