Last Saturday, we had gone to Ahmedabad for some shopping and meeting friends. On the way we decided to take a little detour to see Adalaj ni vav. Mihika had visited Adalaj a few months back and highly recommended a visit there!
We reached there around 1 pm and I didn’t think there would be anybody there on such a hot summer afternoon. But to our surprise there were quite a lot of visitors that day – most from Ahmedabad. There was also a big group that had come for a picnic there.
Vav is Gujarati for step well. The step well at Adalaj dates back to 1499. It was built as a resting place for travelers and traders. Gujarat being a semi-arid region, step wells served a bigger utilitarian purpose of storing rain water for the dry months. While the water in the well is not drinkable now, the shade of the steps is as welcome as it was centuries ago.
From the road, the structure doesn’t look much and we weren’t even sure if we had come to right place. As we entered the step well from one of three entrances, we realized how massive the whole structure was. The step well is five stories below ground. The roof is not a continuous ceiling, thereby making the light and shadows play hide and seek on the steps below.
Architecturally it is a marvel, with intricate carvings showing a beautiful blend of hindu and Islamic designs. The beauty can be seen in the pictures but what intrigued me more were the stories about the step well. There was an old man there who was telling the history of the well. I don’t know how true they are but they provided good entertainment that time!
The step well was started by King Veer Singh. Veer Singh died during a battle with Mohammad Begda. The step well was still incomplete. Mohammad Begda wanted to marry Veer Singh’s beautiful wife, who agreed to marry Begda on the condition that he completes the step well. Begda agreed and completed the step well and when he went to the queen with his marriage proposal again, the queen committed suicide in the well itself.
Another story goes that after the well was completed, Mohammad Begda asked the mason who constructed the well if they can make another one just like this. Their answer in ‘Yes’ resulted in their deaths! Begda was so proud of this step well that he didn’t want another such being built anywhere. There are 6 graves just outside the step well, and the old man said that those were the graves for the 6 masons who built it!
At all levels there are resting platforms. I was imagining a day from 1499 – a group of traders, with their horses and merchandise would come to take a short nap in the afternoon, drink cool water from the well before getting on with the long journey again. While resting, they would see another group of traders; conversation will start between them and soon they might be trading their commodities! Or a returning pilgrim might be telling stories about his pilgrimage, inspiring others to take on that journey. It was a place not just for resting and water; it was a place for sharing stories!
I was also imagining a small market just outside the step well selling eatables and other nick-knacks which people can buy for families back home!
I soon came out of my day dream when Sikander tapped me saying it was time we leave! 🙂