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Celebrating everyday life

Celebrating everyday life

Author: A. Srivathsan
Publication: The Hindu
Date: September 28, 2007
URL: http://www.hindu.com/yw/2007/09/28/stories/2007092850080200.htm

The seven-storied Rani-ki vav in Patan is the largest of step wells in Gujarat. It was built in the 11th century by Rani Udayamati of the Solanki dynasty. Read more about it...

Imagine a temple with a series of steps, ornate pavilions and a sculpted tower over the sanctum.

Turn it upside down and place it under the ground, scoop the earth and make it accessible. And there it is - a subterranean temple. The builders of Gujarat just did that, but with a difference. Instead of placing a deity at the end of the axial path they decided to build it around a water spot and open the tower on top to the sky.

The step wells of Gujarat are just not about revering, judiciously collecting and using water. It was a celebration of everyday life, making social spaces, providing tired travellers with dense covers and cool places to rest. It was architecture at its best - functional, communicative and serving a social purpose.
Restoration

Rani-ki vav in Patan is the largest of step wells in Gujarat. It is grand, elaborate and seven storied and was built in the 11th century by Rani Udayamati of the Solanki dynasty.

This 64-metre long and 20-meter wide well has a series of steps with broad landings, sculpted walls and ornate pillars.

Thick walls on the edge and three rows of pillars with beams, support the excavated earth that presses on the sides.

For long, the grandness and the importance of this well was unknown. Four of its tiers were filled with mud, probably due to the floods in the nearby Sarasvati river. The rich sculptural portions that were buried under the mud were relatively better protected, while the ones above were vandalised.

It was only in 1986 that the Archaeological Survey of India excavated and restored the entire well.

Many of the step wells no longer serve their purpose as water storehouses. Some are abandoned and the art of digging wells and water harvesting are lost. However, fortunately, a few of these wells are now being conserved.

Step wells exemplify how architecture could transform even an everyday activity like water collecting into a celebration and profound experience. All it takes is social commitment and a passion for quality design.


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