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Adalaj Vav: A fusion of geometric patterns

The interiors of Adalaj vav.  

Cool breeze welcomes us as we enter the shadowy interiors of Adalaj vav, the ornate five-storey step-well on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. We are immediately struck by its architectural design which is a harmonious play of intricate Islamic floral and geometric patterns, seamlessly fusing into Hindu and Jain emblems and icons. It is yet again an amalgam of the aesthetic and the functional. This colossal water shrine of immense beauty, built as a resting place for weary travelers, traders and pilgrims in its time, doubled up to satisfy ritualistic and utilitarian needs.

Adalaj is one of the many step-wells in the State that celebrates water and takes the architecture of the region to its high points. One of its most remarkable features claimed for the stepwell is that it enjoys a temperature that is six degrees less than the temperatures outside, at any point in time.

Adalaj has three distinctive features: the entrance pavilion at the ground level, the flight of steps leading to the circular tank, and the well itself at the lowest level which connects to an underground aquifer. The mammoth five-storied sandstone structure is laid out along a north-south axis and is octagonal in plan at the top, built on a large number of intricately carved pillars.

At every level of the stepwell, cross beams along the entire lengths have been used in the construction. It is the only major monument of its kind in the State, with three entrance stairs leading to a stepped corridor. The three entrances converge at the first underground storey in a spacious square platform where visitors gather to savour its beauty.

While each floor is roomy for a large number of people to congregate, the structure is well ventilated and lit with vents in the roofs at various floors and at the landing level. However, except for a brief period at noon, there is no sunlight that directly enters the landing. In addition to its sculptural adornments, it is this interplay of light that casts its magical spell on tourists visiting Adalaj.

As we weave our way through the maze of passageways, that are veritable galleries of art at one of its finest, we barely realize we are descending into the bowels of the earth! Arabesque designs, ornamental balconies with delicate and intricate carvings, embellished columns, carved walls and niches with idols of Hindu deities, elephants, flowers, birds and mini turrets, throughout its five floors, leave us in a state of trance.

The Ami Khumbor or pot holding the water of life, and the Kalpa Vriksha – the tree of life, are sculpted into a niche, from a single slab of stone.

The story of Adalaj as revealed by inscriptions in Sanskrit on the wall of its first storey, is veiled in romance and tragedy. Its construction, begun at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Rana Veer Singh, was completed by his queen, Rudabai after Veer Singh was killed in battle against Sultan Mohammad Begada, the neighbouring ruler. Begada, who was struck by Rudabai’s beauty, proposed marriage to her.

She accepted his offer on condition that he would complete the construction of the stepwell begun by her husband. However, once the monument neared completion, Rudabai plunged into its waters to meet her watery grave.

Begada ensured that an edifice of such brilliance would not be replicated and hence put to death, the masons involved in its building.

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Printable version | Jul 18, 2021 7:35:58 PM |

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