Rani Ki Vav: Massive Stepwell
Rani ki Vav or Ranki vav (lit. ’Queen’s stepwell’) is a stepwell situated in the town of Patan in Gujarat state of India. It is located on the banks of Saraswati river. Its construction is attributed to Udayamati, daughter of Khengara of Saurashtra, queen and spouse of the 11th-century Chaulukya king Bhima I. Silted over, it was rediscovered in 1940s and restored in 1980s by the Archaeological Survey of India. It has been listed as one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 2014.
The finest and one of the largest examples of its kind and designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, the stepwell is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels; more than 500 principal sculptures of Bhagwan Vishnu and over 1000 minor ones combine religious, mythological and Secular imagery.
Rani ki vav was constructed during the rule of the Chaulukya dynasty. It is located on the banks of Saraswati river. Prabandha-Chintamani, composed by the Jain monk Merutunga in 1304, mentions: “Udayamati, the daughter of Naravaraha Khengara, built this novel stepwell at Shripattana (Patan) surpassing the glory of the Sahastralinga Tank”. According to it, the stepwell was commissioned in 1063 and was completed after 20 years. It is generally assumed that it was built in the memory of Bhima I (r. c. 1022 – 1064) by his queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karna after his death but whether she was a widow when she commissioned it is disputed. Commissariat puts the date of construction to 1032 based on the architectural similarity to Vimalavasahi temple on Mount Abu built in the same year.
The stepwell was later flooded by the Saraswati river and silted over. In 1890s, Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited it when it was completely buried under the earth and only well shaft and few pillars were visible. They described it as being a huge pit measuring 87 metres (285 ft). In Travels in Western India, James Tod mentioned that the material from the stepwell was reused in the other stepwell built in modern Patan, probably Trikam Barot ni Vav (Bahadur Singh stepwell). In the 1940s, excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1986, a major excavation and restoration was carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). An image of Udayamati was also recovered during the excavation. The restoration was carried out from 1981 to 1987.
Rani ki vav has been declared a Monument of National Importance and protected by the ASI. It was added to the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites on 22 June 2014. It was named India’s “Cleanest Iconic Place” at the 2016 Indian Sanitation Conference.
Highlights: Rich history and artistry
Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Entree fee: INR 5 per head (Indians) INR 128 (Foreign travellers)
Location: Mohan Nagar Society, Mohan Nagar Society, Patan, Gujarat 384265
How to get there
By Road: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker, but less comfortable.
By Rail: Patan has its own railway station. Nearby railway station is Mehsana, which is 1 hour away from Patan by bus.
By Air: The nearest airport from Patan is Ahmedabad, situated at a distance of 125 km. The airport here, in turn is connected to International and Indian cities. Patan has a railway station for easy access.