A Step-Well, a World Heritage site in Gandhinagar in India | Photography by Randy Gener
A Step-Well, a World Heritage site in Gandhinagar in India | Photography by Randy Gener

GPS | ASIA:  Why have the people of India forsaken this stepwell in Gujarat?

Gandhinagar, a town in the northwest of India, is not as well-known as the bustling city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat  (close to Pakistan). Situated 18 km., north of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar is perhaps known for its step-wells (known locally as adalaj vav). This step-well pictured above is a World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction. Established in 1499, this is the oldest step-well in all of Gujarat.

In the past, these step wells were frequented by travelers and caravans as stopovers along trade routes. But lately they have not been maintained very well. Although the site is worth seeing for historical reasons, it is unfortunately not clean. When I visited this step well (shown above), it stank of piss and excrement. It was unhygienic. I took the bother to go down to the very bottom, here in Gujarat, and I was appalled to see people hanging out inside there. It was a health hazard! I worried about the health of the women and children who visit it. I would not recommend staying inside it for very long. Which is a shame because, architecturally, it is quite fascinating.

The step well or Vav, as it is called in Gujarati, is intricately carved and is several stories in depth. The designs on its walls and pillars include, leaves, flowers, birds, fish and other breathtaking ornamental designs. The adlaj vav is a classic example of the Indo-Islamicstyle of architecture and has features of both the styles. The well was built in 1499 A.D. by Queen Rudabai.

In this age of globalism, we are often told that one day India will rule the world technologically. There is truth in that. But my hope is that India will also take care of its intangible cultural assets, such as this step-well. India ought to reign in the brick-and-mortar world (especially in its world-heritage sites) and not just in the virtual one. —RG

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