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STEPWELLS
Water in Architecture
Submitted By:
Harshita Singh
B.Arch 7A
Amity School of Architecture
& Planning
A8304012026
Stepwells, also called bawdi or baoli are wells in which the water can be reached by
descending a set of steps. They may be covered and protected, and are often of
architectural significance. It can be multi-storied also in which a bullock turns the water
wheel ("Rehant") to raise the water in the well to the first or second floor.
They are most common in the west of India. They may be also found in the other
more arid regions of the subcontinent, extending into Pakistan. The construction may be
utilitarian, but sometimes includes significant architectural embellishments.
A number of distinct names, sometimes local, exist for stepwells. In Hindi speaking
regions, they include names based on baudi (including bawdi, bawri, baoli, bavadi). In
Gujarati and Marwari language, they are usually called vav.
Structure
All forms of the stepwell may be considered to be particular examples of the many types
of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed in India, mainly to cope with
seasonal fluctuations in water availability. A basic difference between stepwells on the
one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, was to make it easier for people to reach the
ground water, and to maintain and manage the well.
In some related types of structure (johara wells), ramps were built to allow cattle to
reach the water. The majority of surviving stepwells originally also served a leisure
purpose, as well as providing water. This was because the base of the well provided relief
from daytime heat, and more such relief could be obtained if the well was covered. This
led to the building of some significant ornamental and architectural features, often
associated with dwellings and in urban areas. It also ensured their survival as monuments.
History
Stepwell construction is known to have gone on from at least 600AD. Most existing
stepwells date from the last 800 years. There are suggestions that they may have originated
much earlier, and there are some suggestions that precursors to them can be seen in the
Indus Valley civilisation.
Numbers of surviving stepwells can be found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya
Pradesh, and Maharashtra. There are also smaller numbers elsewhere including in the
British isles where the water source is close to the surface [now covered over at Rooskeyin
Co. Leitrim}.
The great Mughal emperor Babur recorded in his memoirs that he built a baoli in Agra
Fort, India. The baoli was completed after the battle of Khanua in 1527 and Babur placed
an inscription there to this effect. Babur actually used two "Rehant's" to carry the water to a
higher level. This was altered when Akbar built his palaces (1565-1573). It was necessary to
use a third Rehant to raise water. Therefore a three-storeyed water pavilion was erected at
the mouth of the second well and three overhead tanks were built on its roof. Water from
Babur's baoli was conducted into these tanks. This plan was again altered when Shah Jahani
Mahal was built. Massive walls were raised in the middle of Babur's baoli and the rooms
were closed up. Alternative arrangements of water supply to the overhead tanks was made.
Babur's baoli is now buried in the basement apartments is only partially accessible. The
overhead tanks with inscribed tablets have survived intact
Significant ones include:
• The Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat.
• Agrasen ki Baoli, New Delhi.
• The Adalajni Vav at Adalaj, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
• Chandinath ki vav of Bhinmal.
• In Neemrana (Rajasthan), when arriving from New Delhi.
• Raniji ki Baori in Bundi, Rajasthan.
• The Pushkarani monument at Vijayanagara, Karnataka.
• Some in Amber, including the 'PannaMeena ka Kund' and 'SaraiBawdi'
• The Sharenshwarni vav at Halvad, Gujarat.
• Several existing structures in Delhi, including a recent pre-Mughal finding in the Red
Fort.
Chand Baori, Rajasthan
Chand Baori, in the village of Abhaneri near
Bandikui, Rajasthan. Stepwells, also called bawdi or
baoli are in essence wells in which the water can be
reached by descending a set of steps. They may be
covered and protected, and are often of architectural
significance. Chand Baori well is 30meters deep, it
has 13floors and 3,500 steps.
Built back in the 10th century, the incredible well of
Chand Baori, India was a practical solution to the
water problem in the area. The arid climate forced
the locals to dig deep for a dependable water source,
one that would last throughout an entire year.
Legends say that ghosts build it in one night and that
it has so many steps to make it impossible for
someone to retrieve a coin once it's been dropped in
the well.
Stepwell at the lost city of Vijayanagara, KarnatakaIn
the lost city of Vijayanagarathere is a large step pond
style well near the ruins of Hampi, similar to
ChandBoari, but with four symmetrical sides.
Rani Ji Ki Baori, Bundi
The small city of Bundi, Rajasthan is sometimes
called "The City of Stepwells" for the more than 50 wells
in and around the city. The Rani Ji Ki or "Queen's
Stepwell" is the most famous. It was built in 1699 by the
spurned second wife of the king, who was cast aside
after she bore him an heir. She turned her energies to
public projects, building nearly 20 wells, including the 46
meter Rani Ki Ji. 40 feet wide at the top, 200 steps
descend to the water.
Agrasen Ki Baoli, New Delhi
In 2002, more than two months of digging removed
centuries of silt and trash from the Agrasen well in Delhi.
Located close to the the famous Jantar Mantar observatory, the
well is deep and rectangular in shape, 60 meters long, by 15
meters wide, with with 103 steps, some of which are
submerged. The construction dates is unknown, but it most
likely dates to the mid 1300s. A new appreciation for these
wells come both from renewed cultural and architectural pride,
but also in realizing that the ancient system of holding water
still makes a lot of sense.
The Rani Vav, Patan
The Rani Vav (Queen's well) at Patan,
It was built during the late eleventh century, is probably the most magnificent step-well
in Gujarat. Multi-storey colonnades and retaining walls link a stepped tank to a deep
circular well. Throughout, the ornamentation is sumptuous. Columns, brackets and
beams are encrusted with scrollwork and the wall niches are carved with figures. Hindu
deities alternate with alluring maidens on the walls flanking the staircase. Its
monumental construction and ornate treatment suggest that it also served a ritual
ceremonial purpose.
The Dada Harir's vav, Ahmedabad
Together with the vav at Adalaj, is the finest example
of the Muslim period. The Dada Harir's vav is
modelled on the earlier Mata Bhavani's vav, though it
has an additional domed pavilion at the entrance. One
striking feature of this vav is the complete absence of
figural themes. The motifs in stylized scrollwork that
adorn the wall niches may be compared with those
that appear in Islamic architecture. The vav at Adalaj,
located 12 miles north of Ahmedabad, is octagonal.
As the long flight of steps descend, columns and
connecting beams create open structures of
increasing complexity; the receding perspectives of
columns and cross-beams are particularly striking.
Wall niches incorporate miniature pilasters, eaves and
roof-like pediments.

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Stepwells

  • 1. STEPWELLS Water in Architecture Submitted By: Harshita Singh B.Arch 7A Amity School of Architecture & Planning A8304012026
  • 2. Stepwells, also called bawdi or baoli are wells in which the water can be reached by descending a set of steps. They may be covered and protected, and are often of architectural significance. It can be multi-storied also in which a bullock turns the water wheel ("Rehant") to raise the water in the well to the first or second floor. They are most common in the west of India. They may be also found in the other more arid regions of the subcontinent, extending into Pakistan. The construction may be utilitarian, but sometimes includes significant architectural embellishments. A number of distinct names, sometimes local, exist for stepwells. In Hindi speaking regions, they include names based on baudi (including bawdi, bawri, baoli, bavadi). In Gujarati and Marwari language, they are usually called vav.
  • 3. Structure All forms of the stepwell may be considered to be particular examples of the many types of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed in India, mainly to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability. A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, was to make it easier for people to reach the ground water, and to maintain and manage the well. In some related types of structure (johara wells), ramps were built to allow cattle to reach the water. The majority of surviving stepwells originally also served a leisure purpose, as well as providing water. This was because the base of the well provided relief from daytime heat, and more such relief could be obtained if the well was covered. This led to the building of some significant ornamental and architectural features, often associated with dwellings and in urban areas. It also ensured their survival as monuments.
  • 4. History Stepwell construction is known to have gone on from at least 600AD. Most existing stepwells date from the last 800 years. There are suggestions that they may have originated much earlier, and there are some suggestions that precursors to them can be seen in the Indus Valley civilisation. Numbers of surviving stepwells can be found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. There are also smaller numbers elsewhere including in the British isles where the water source is close to the surface [now covered over at Rooskeyin Co. Leitrim}. The great Mughal emperor Babur recorded in his memoirs that he built a baoli in Agra Fort, India. The baoli was completed after the battle of Khanua in 1527 and Babur placed an inscription there to this effect. Babur actually used two "Rehant's" to carry the water to a higher level. This was altered when Akbar built his palaces (1565-1573). It was necessary to use a third Rehant to raise water. Therefore a three-storeyed water pavilion was erected at the mouth of the second well and three overhead tanks were built on its roof. Water from Babur's baoli was conducted into these tanks. This plan was again altered when Shah Jahani Mahal was built. Massive walls were raised in the middle of Babur's baoli and the rooms were closed up. Alternative arrangements of water supply to the overhead tanks was made. Babur's baoli is now buried in the basement apartments is only partially accessible. The overhead tanks with inscribed tablets have survived intact
  • 5. Significant ones include: • The Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat. • Agrasen ki Baoli, New Delhi. • The Adalajni Vav at Adalaj, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. • Chandinath ki vav of Bhinmal. • In Neemrana (Rajasthan), when arriving from New Delhi. • Raniji ki Baori in Bundi, Rajasthan. • The Pushkarani monument at Vijayanagara, Karnataka. • Some in Amber, including the 'PannaMeena ka Kund' and 'SaraiBawdi' • The Sharenshwarni vav at Halvad, Gujarat. • Several existing structures in Delhi, including a recent pre-Mughal finding in the Red Fort.
  • 6. Chand Baori, Rajasthan Chand Baori, in the village of Abhaneri near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Stepwells, also called bawdi or baoli are in essence wells in which the water can be reached by descending a set of steps. They may be covered and protected, and are often of architectural significance. Chand Baori well is 30meters deep, it has 13floors and 3,500 steps. Built back in the 10th century, the incredible well of Chand Baori, India was a practical solution to the water problem in the area. The arid climate forced the locals to dig deep for a dependable water source, one that would last throughout an entire year. Legends say that ghosts build it in one night and that it has so many steps to make it impossible for someone to retrieve a coin once it's been dropped in the well. Stepwell at the lost city of Vijayanagara, KarnatakaIn the lost city of Vijayanagarathere is a large step pond style well near the ruins of Hampi, similar to ChandBoari, but with four symmetrical sides.
  • 7. Rani Ji Ki Baori, Bundi The small city of Bundi, Rajasthan is sometimes called "The City of Stepwells" for the more than 50 wells in and around the city. The Rani Ji Ki or "Queen's Stepwell" is the most famous. It was built in 1699 by the spurned second wife of the king, who was cast aside after she bore him an heir. She turned her energies to public projects, building nearly 20 wells, including the 46 meter Rani Ki Ji. 40 feet wide at the top, 200 steps descend to the water.
  • 8. Agrasen Ki Baoli, New Delhi In 2002, more than two months of digging removed centuries of silt and trash from the Agrasen well in Delhi. Located close to the the famous Jantar Mantar observatory, the well is deep and rectangular in shape, 60 meters long, by 15 meters wide, with with 103 steps, some of which are submerged. The construction dates is unknown, but it most likely dates to the mid 1300s. A new appreciation for these wells come both from renewed cultural and architectural pride, but also in realizing that the ancient system of holding water still makes a lot of sense.
  • 9. The Rani Vav, Patan The Rani Vav (Queen's well) at Patan, It was built during the late eleventh century, is probably the most magnificent step-well in Gujarat. Multi-storey colonnades and retaining walls link a stepped tank to a deep circular well. Throughout, the ornamentation is sumptuous. Columns, brackets and beams are encrusted with scrollwork and the wall niches are carved with figures. Hindu deities alternate with alluring maidens on the walls flanking the staircase. Its monumental construction and ornate treatment suggest that it also served a ritual ceremonial purpose.
  • 10. The Dada Harir's vav, Ahmedabad Together with the vav at Adalaj, is the finest example of the Muslim period. The Dada Harir's vav is modelled on the earlier Mata Bhavani's vav, though it has an additional domed pavilion at the entrance. One striking feature of this vav is the complete absence of figural themes. The motifs in stylized scrollwork that adorn the wall niches may be compared with those that appear in Islamic architecture. The vav at Adalaj, located 12 miles north of Ahmedabad, is octagonal. As the long flight of steps descend, columns and connecting beams create open structures of increasing complexity; the receding perspectives of columns and cross-beams are particularly striking. Wall niches incorporate miniature pilasters, eaves and roof-like pediments.