Rani Ki Vav Patan

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1. Overview of Rani ki Vav in Patan that was the capital of Gujarat for over 600 years between the 8-14th centuries. It was constructed by Udayamati, queen and wife of Bhimdeva I (1022-1063) of the Solanki dynasty. The vav measures 64 m long, 20 m wide and 27 m deep. Entrance to well is from the east. At entrance of well (not in pic) is Kirti Stambh. On either side below grass u see stone. These were niches which most probably had sculptures.

2. View from west side. Below is well. It is built up with bricks faced with hewn stones. It has stepped corridors at the ground level leading to the kund. Main components are entrance staircase, side walls of corridors, multi-storeyed pillared pavilions and back walls of the well. Length of the monument is 213 feet or 64 metres. Depth of the well 100 feet or 29 metres.

3. Well has depth of 100 feet, diameter of 10 metres. It was fed by Saraswati river. At the top, 8 pairs of corbelled brackets were built into the rear of well to facilitate drawing up of water. Side walls have sculptures. The architectural brilliance and elegance of this vav is in its pristine glory in ornamental works. These works portray the mastery of Solanki sculptors in depicting rhythm, vigour, beauty and various moods in stone.

4. Shaft of the well is highly ornamented with intricate carvings and large vertical brackets in pairs which supported the different galleries of the well. The brackets are arranged in tires. Being a water edifice representation of Sheshashayi Vishnu (carvings on right of pic) in the shaft of well at various levels is unique.

5. Close up of intricate carvings in shaft of well. Henry C and James B also visited step well in 1886 and found that it was completely filled up with earth and only back wall of the well and pillars of torana were visible. The step-well remained buried for centuries and suffered due to negligence and flood in the river. Till 1960 none knew a highly ornate and sculptured vav existed here.

6. What u see is a result of the painstaking efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India. Lots of caption material is courtesy their booklet. The well has a multi-storeyed pavilion, a drawn well and large tank for collecting surplus water. Rani ki Vav is considered to be the Queen amongst the step-wells in India. Ones I have seen in Chand Baori Jaipur, Bundi, Adalaj-vav and Udaipur are not a patch on this.

7. Close up of image of Sheshashayi Vishnu in shaft of well. There are 3 carvings that can be from 3 levels that represent Swaraglok, Prithvilok and Patallok representing Akash, Bhoomi and Patal respectively. . It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

8. Huge garden that houses the step-well. Very nice. There are 4 types of Vav, Jaya, Vijaya, Nandi and Bhadra. This is Nandi Vav as entrance and exit is one. Bhadra has 3 entrances, Vijaya 2 and Jaya 4. For a good guide call Jagdishbhai 91 99043 46072 / 96649 18114. The shikhar is Nagara style. Sandstone for vav got from Dhagadra in Saurashtra, Gujarat.

9. Vav has sculptures of ten avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. At level one on left and right are sculptures - quite in ruins though. Right of pic is Shiva, Parvati and son Kartik. Left is Vishnu and Lakshmi. "Vav has more than 800 elaborate sculptures across 7 galleries. The central theme is Dasavataras or 10 incarnations of Vishnu.

10. View from level 2. Extreme left low is Agni that u shall see and right is Bajrangbali. Pillar remains means there was a roof on top i.e. no longer exists. Stones were placed next to each other through a inter-locking system. The step well has an underground flight of steps leading down to the level of the water. With time the step well evolved as an underground architectural form with a well at the end of long flight of steps marked by pillared pavilions of multiple storeys.

11 AGNI with beard. "Vavs were originally constructed quite simply, but became more intricate over the years, perhaps to make explicit this ancient concept of the sanctity of water by carving it out in stone deities".

12. In India 2.5 and 7.5 sathi (represent bad times) are shown as human beings. If you pray to Bajrangbali ie Hanuman he will ensure bad times go away shown as Hanuman crushing the human beings.

13. From three levels u can see image of Sheshashyi Vishnu. Today we have access upto level below this. From the beginning to the end is a stepped corridor (extreme left & right of pic) that leads all the way to the end. It has landings at intervals where multi-storeyed pavilions were built, at end of corridor is a reservoir (that collects surplus water) beyond which is the well.

14. Sculptured panel. Panels on both sides, at this and next level make it worth a visit. Left are typical steps in step well. Top of panel are Apsaras. Next ladies doing make up. 3rd line of sculptures are avatars of Lord Vishnu.

15. Close up of same side sculptured panel. Centre are basis of patola design saris (see later), covered by wooden stand are images of Vishnu, right lower are avatars of Vishnu.

16. Patterns on top are used even today in the traditional Patola textile for which Patan is famous for centuries. Below that are Kirti Mukhas (to ward away evil), Vishnu and elephant reliefs.

17. Close up - notice elephants at lowest level. One is pulling a tree, another is crushing a man. Intricate work. Above them are images of Vishnu. Top Kirti Mukhas to ward away evil. These are found in all Hindu & Jain Temples and also in Bodh Gaya.

18. In sculpture panel lady doing make-up. Why are step-wells found all over Western India. Since region had scanty rainfall there was a need to dig deep for water.

19. Corner, centre of pic is Surya or Sun God. To his left is a Yogi doing tapasya-penance identified with hand up. Right front is Vishnu. Apsara on either side of pic. 7 of Vishnu`s 10 avatars are featured here: Varaha, Vamana, Rama, Balarama, Parashurama, the Buddha and Kalki. Narasimha avatar must have been there but is now missing. Matsya (fish) & Kurma (tortoise) incarnations were rare in Gujarat in that period.

20. Left to right first Vishnu , second is Balarama, lady is Bhairavi - notice her slippers. In Balarama`s 4 hands he bears a plough, a lotus, a pestle and citron. Shesha, his snake patron, spreads his triple jewelled hoods overhead. Right is Parashurama avatar. He is carrying in his 4 hands a battle-axe, an arrow, a bow and either a coconut or a citron fruit.

21. Next to Parashurama is Buddha. The 8 incarnations are equally divided between the two walls, other deities in remaining 3 niches are Durga killing the buffalo demon, the Sun God, Vishnu and Bhairava. Image has a slender form, as befits an ascetic. His coarse garments bring out Buddha`s ascetic aspect vividly. His hands hold the varadakshamala, a second rosary of large beads, a lotus and the end of his robe.

22. Center of pic is KALKI avatar. Left is lady applying lipstick. Right is Apsara. On her left leg is a monkey who is pulling her clothes. This incarnation will in future assume to destroy the evil force is represented here as a warrior and as a sovereign, in the former role he is riding on horseback, wielding a sword, armed with a dagger tied at this waist, clad in protective boots, trampling his adversaries. He is wearing a tall crown, shielded by a parasol. He has 4 hands, 3 of which display weapons.

23. Left is same Apsara where monkey trying to pull her clothes. Centre is Durga Mahisasurmardini killing the buffalo demon. Right is Apsara who looks in the mirror and adjusts her ear ring. Durga wields in her 10 right hands a trident, thunderbolt, an arrow, a mace, a goad, a spear, a discus, a lotus, a kettle-drum and a sword & in left hands a shield, a bell, a skull-cup with a fish, a 3 headed cobra, a war horn, a bow, a noose, the demon`s hair and shaft of the trident.

24. Loved these sculptures so showing Kalki and Mahisasurmardini together. The buffalo buckles under Durga weight, his tongue hanging out, & his human form, wielding sword & shield, emerges to continue the duel. Durga`s lion attacks from the rear. Vav has 15 images of Devis, who may be regarded as member of the group of 12 Gauris. Their blessings are evoked for women`s marital fulfilment.

25. Sculptures at lower level i.e. below earlier ones. Ganeshji ki nruty dvara stuti. Image with kamal in hand is Laxmi. Top Kirti Mukhas to ward away evil.

26. Same side front panel. Centre is Lakshmi. Ladies on both side are Apsaras. Lower level is Vishnu. At various spots in step-well are representations of the Vasus, 8 heavenly personages named in ancient tradition. Their most telling representation is in the deepest level in the well, at the edge of the water, where they are shown, folding their hands to the waters below, which surely was intended to symbolise Ganga herself. We must remember that Rani-ki-Vav is Udaymati`s memorial for her departed husband Bhimadeva.

27. Side view of same level right side sculptured panel. Top u can see empty niches, images damaged. Lowest level avatars of Vishnu. Above them are ladies and then Apsaras.

28. Apsara with Sadhu at her feet. A Sadhu is not supposed to be a person of desire. He is supposed to help others. If he fails to do so this is what happens is the message from the sculpture.

29. Lady wearing a ear ring. Note the elegance of the sculpture.

30. Right is Lord Indra with his vehicle elephant. Centre is Rama. 4 armed sculptures of Rama are rare in art. In his 4 hands holding an arrow, a sword, a shield & a slack bow. Left is a Sadhu wooing an Apsara.

31. Left to right is VISHKANYA (said to be beautiful like peacock, poisonous like a snake, chanchal like a fish & evil like a shikhari. Next is Vaman avatar. Then is a Sadhu wooing a Apsara. Last is Rama. Vamana is a plump boy, a celibate student, clad in loin cloth and adorned with simple ornaments. In right hand holding a varadakshamala and left hand a umbrella. His chest displays the shrivatsa mark, revealing the boy is none other than Vishnu.

32. Left is NAGAKANYA. Centre is VARAHA avatar of Lord Vishnu. The god with a human body and a wild boar`s head strikes a hero`s posture filling up the frame diagonally, as he lifts up the Earth goddess from the bed of the ocean. His rear right hands holds a mace, his upper left hand supports a discus in the palm & natural left hand holds a conch. The contrast between the virile Varaha & the sensuous goddess caressing his snout is worth noting.

33. BHAIRAVA is a form of Shiva. U see a 20 armed dancing Bhairava. His 8 discernible right hands display: a dagger, the gesture of striking or slapping, a thunderbolt, a baton, a kettle-drum, a sword, a cobra etc. His wild dog mauls a decapitated corpse and reaches to lick the blood oozing from the freshly cut head in Bhairava`s hand. Right of pic is Apsara Maneka and sage Vishwamitra. When the sage was doing tapasya-penance Maneka goes to temple to break his penance.

34. Centre is Lakshmi, right lady with a mirror. Serpent maidens (Nagakanya). The erotism of these young women is not even thinly veiled, stark naked or sometimes two snakes crawling on their limbs, they also carry cranial cups with a fish, the snakes sipping at the cup. Sometimes 3 owls are perched on an overhead ledge as u see. Presence of serpent maidens is not surprising in a step-well, since serpents like apsaras, were conceived primarily as dwellers of water.

35. Side panel. Vishnu image above. Missed taking pics of Nayika Karpuramanjari, Queen Udayamati, Chamunda, Hari-Hara, 20 armed Vishnu riding on Garuda, Chaturmurthi or Vaikuntha, Narasimha`s duel with demon king Hiranyakashipu, Hari-Hara-Pitamaha-Arka or a synthesis of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma & the Sun god, the latter being dominant, Shiva-Ardhanarishvara (blend of Shiva & his consort in one body). Many of these sculpturs are in the no go area.

36. Local girls taking selfie - the current rage. Also missed taking pic of Sage Agastya. Queen Udayamati constructed the step-well as a memorial, following a practice sanctioned by tradition. Temples and other charitable edifices in India were built to accumulate merit (Punya) for oneself and others.

37. We present images of Vishnu at 3 levels i.e. Swaraglok, Prithvilok and Patallok in that order. This is Swaraglok or Akash. Left niche is Mahesh and right is Ganesha that we shall see close ups later. Columns have stone for support.

38. Level of Prithvilok i.e. Earth. Close up of Sheshsayi Vishnu. Gap is smaller so can barely see.

39. Level of Patallok. Again a sleeping Sheshsayi Vishnu.

40. Gives you a sense of the grandeur of the columns. Lower level is maximum u are permitted to go. Post 2001 Kutch earthquake that part of the vav got damaged hence restriction. Original structure had 7 terraces (5 preserved now). In its original form torana with 7 terraces on the walls with the landing pavilions with the increasing number of storeys all reaching up to the top and will sculptures in niches - Udayamati`s step-well would have been even more spectacular.

41. Up view from lowest level permitted to go. Either side have sculptured panels with images of Vishnu and Apsaras. Second row top left are Brahma, Mahesh & Vishnu. Top right are Ganesh, Lakshmi and Kuber. Only when I saw this realized the grandeur of the monument. 4 of its 6 terraces are preserved, though many sculptures missing.

42. Left top are Brahma, Mahesh & Vishnu with their consorts. Below that images of Vishnu. Brahma 4 headed with beard & moustache seated on a lotus, with his consort, his hamsa bird is in front. Next is Uma-Maheshvara. Shiva seated on a high seat under which his bull amount. Shiva has 4 hands, a jata, richly adorned with precious ornaments. Vishnu & Lakshmi riding on Garuda.

43. Three gods of good luck namely Ganesha, Lakshmi and Kuber (the god of wealth). Ganesha`s consort fondles the god`s trunk. The mouse helps himself to a sweet ball from the vessel in front of seat. Ganesha has in his own 4 hands his own broken tusk. Maha-Lakshmi is seated on a lotus pedestal. Her 2 natural hands have a rosary coupled with the abhaya gesture. Last Kubera with his consort. His 4 hands hold end of a long money bag, his consort`s waist and a flower. She holds a flower too & embraces Kubera.

44. View of side sculptured panel. Lowest level Apsaras. Next is Lakshmi (small sculptures). Next Vishnu. There are Vishnu`s 24 theological forms, where images are identical but the 4 attributes in the hand of god, conch shell, discus, mace and lotus are rotated. Then Apsaras. Niches in level after that are mostly empty. Note the pillar design.

45. Lower level Apsara, top Vishnu.

46. Above earlier level Apsara & Vishnu is this panel. Top is Vishnu.

47. Angular view of pillars. Note pillars below i.e. the last level. This is the 4th and last pavilion fronting the well. Floor of the corridor is at its deepest in the reservoir. As water in the well rose, it would overflow through the lowest storey of the pavilion into the tank.

48. NARK DWAR. When person commits sins and dies then Yam Dhoot gives punishment to that soul shown as Yamdoot sitting on person back.

49. Panchratna story - monkey on top of a crocodile.

50. Pillar design.

51. Vertical view of pillars - just love the design. Centre is sleeping Vishnu. Originally 292 pillars supported the pavilions of the step-well, 226 remain intact today.

52. Close up of pillar top. Every pillar has a square base decorated with ghat-pallav motifs and quadruple brackets at the top having 4 armed kichakas (centre of pic face front back behind).

53. Pillar with backdrop of Apsaras - awesome work. Detailed captions taken from Archaeological Survey of India book by Kirit Mankodi. All credits to author. Deep gratitude to Kiritbhai.

54. Just loved this pic - the pillars with their design, the light, the colours with Sheshsayi Vishnu in the centre. In case of errors in captions please mail me.

55. U see Sahasralinga Talav meaning `lake of a thousand lingas`. It was built by Siddhraj Jaysinh just north of Rani Ki Vav in 1084. Around the tank are found the few remaining ruins of the thousand shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.


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