Charmed by the beautiful Adalaj Stepwell, I was determined to continue my acquaintance with this unusual architectural form. Luckily, the state of Gujarat is dotted with step wells of all sizes and levels of intricacy. As soon as I had a chance, I went for a trip to Patan – a small town 130 km from Ahmedabad, which is primarily known as home to splendid Rani ki vav (Queen’s step well). Rani ki vav is one of three UNESCO’s Heritage Sites in Gujarat ( with Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park and the historic city of Ahmedabad being the other two), and it definitely deserves its fame.
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Magnificent underground structure
So, after a train journey from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and 3.5 hours of interesting, but oh so tiring trip by a local bus to Patan there I was, ready to behold the sight of architectural splendour. However, everything I could see was the spick-and-span lawn and pathways. The entire structure of the stepwell is located below the ground level. When I finally found the way and approached the site, the mighty structure instantly revealed its grandeur. As I kept climbing down the stairs, the step well was further unveiling its treasures one by one.
The history of Rani Ki Vav
Rani ki vav was constructed in the 11th century in honour of the king Bhima I of the Chaulukya dynasty. Upon his death Udayamati, the mournful queen, decided to immortalize his name by building a stupendous and highly ornate stepwell. Like many similar structures of the region, Rani ki Vav not only served as a water reservoir to cope with seasonal lack of water, but it was also a place of spiritual significance and social importance. Religious ceremonies and public gatherings were regularly held there during the subsequent 200 years or so.
In the 13th century some geotectonic changes caused the nearby Saraswati river to overflow its banks and flood a great deal of surrounding area. As a result, Rani ki vav got filled with silt and remained forgotten for centuries to come. Only in 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India did a tremendous job of excavating the site and introducing it to the public. In 2014 Rani ki vav was rightfully included into the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Rani ki vav in photos
Most of the sculptures and ornate stone carvings of Rani ki vav are beautifully preserved. The most spectacular sculptures are dedicated to Lord Vishnu in different forms, but there are also elaborate depictions of Mahisasuramardini (Durga killing the buffalo demon), Parvati, Genesha, Lakshminarayana and lots of lesser known (at least to me) divine beings. Each level of the stepwell has a platform with beautifully sculpted pillars joining the opposite walls. To see the bottom of the 27 m deep step well, one has to climb up the stairs and go around the structure.
How to reach Patan
As I’ve mentioned above, Patan is located 130 km from Ahmedabad and is well connected by local buses. The journey took longer than I would expect due to the traffic and frequent stops. I don’t remember the exact ticket price, but it was something like Rs 130 (approximately $2). Rani Ki vav is situated around 3 km away from the Patan bus stand, so I would advise to take a rickshaw (it seems Rs 50 is their standard price to take tourists to the site and back). If you decide to hire a cab, a round trip would cost you around Rs 2500 to Rs 3000.
Rani ki Vav travel tips
~ The ticket price is Rs 15 for Indian visitors and Rs 200 for foreign nationals.
~ For better photography opportunities, arrive early in morning, when light and shadows create an interesting effect upon the carved stones.
~ A visit to Rani ki vav is easily combined with a trip to the Sun temple in Modhera – it’s only 33 km from Patan.
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