Adalaj Stepwell, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India.
Adalaj Stepwell (Gujarati: અડાલજની વાવ) is a unique Hindu ‘water building’ in the village of Adalaj, close to Ahmedabad town in Gandhinagar district in the Indian state of Gujarat. The stepwell was built in 1499 by Muslim king Mohammed Begda for Queen Rani Roopba, wife of Veer Singh, the Vaghela chieftain. It is intricately carved and is five stories in depth. Such step wells were once integral to the semi arid regions of Gujarat as they provided basic water needs for drinking, washing and bathing. These wells were also venues for colorful festivals and sacred rituals.
The Adlaj stepwell is five stories deep. It is octagonal (8-sided polygon) in plan at the top, built on intricately carved large number of pillars. Each floor is spacious enough to provide for people to congregate. It was dug deep to access ground water at that level, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in water level due to rainfall over the year. The air and light vents in the roofs at various floors and at the landing level are in the form of large openings. From the first story level, three staircases lead to the bottom water level of the well, which is considered a unique feature. Built along a North-South axis, entrance is from the South, the three staircases are from the South, West and East directions leading to the landing, which is on the northern side of the well. Four small rooms with oriel windows decorated with minutely carved brackets are provided at the landing level, at the four corners. The structural system is typically Indian style with traditional trabeat with horizontal beams and lintels. At the bottom of the well is a square stepped floor in the shape of a funnel extending to the lowest plane. This is chiseled into a circular well. Above the square floor, columns, beams, wall and arched openings spiral around; a feature that continues to the top. The top part of the well, however, is a vertical space open to the sky. The four corners of the square are strengthened with stone beams, set at 45 degrees angle. The motifs of flowers and graphics of Islamic architecture blend very well with the symbols of Hindu and Jain gods carved at various levels of the well. The dominant carvings on the upper floors are of elephants (3 inches (76 mm) in size, each of different design). The Islamic architectural style could be attributed to the Muslim king Begda who built it.
It has been implied that the temperature inside the well is about five degrees lower than the outside hot summer temperatures. It is one of the reasons for the ladies who came to fetch water from the well spending considerable time in the cool climes here. They not only collect water but also worship the gods and goddesses depicted at various levels and while away time in good chatter.