For a dry state’s capital city, Ahmedabad sure has a surprising number of step-wells across the old developments that point towards pragmatic water management practices.
Between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar alone, there are 45 step-wells; some of these are protected by the ASI, some are conserved by the State Archeological Department, and several others are unprotected historical structures.
Interestingly, majority of these step-wells have been, historically, commissioned by or dedicated to, important, powerful women of the time, or goddesses that the locals worship.
Adalaj Vaav, Adalaj
Also known as Rudabai ni Vaav, the stepwell in the village of Adalaj, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad city, is the most well-preserved of all the step-wells in Ahmedabad. Its delicately carved pillars have survived the ravages of time as well as vandals, making the vaav a site of interest for history, architecture, and photography enthusiasts alike. The stepwell is built of yellow sandstone carved in a confluence of Islamic and Jain motifs.
Amritvarsha Ni Vaav, Paanchkuva
A comparatively less glamorous step-well, located in Panchkuva area of Ahmedabad, this stepwell’s claim to fame comes from the fact that it is one of the few structures of its kind, painstakingly restored by the State Archeological Department. It is one of the few, functional step-wells in the city, recharged by ground water, after the restoration by the department. The restoration of this step-well was completed in time for the World Heritage City celebrations in Ahmedabad.
Dada Harir Vaav/Dada Hari Ni Vaav, Asarwa
Another specimen of well-preserved historic architecture, the Dada Harir Vaav is located in Asarwa area of Ahmedabad City. It was commissioned in the late 15th century by Dhai Harir, a lady from the royal harem of the then Sultan of Ahmedabad, Mehmud Begda. She is also credited for building the mosque where she was later buried, near the step-well.
Mata Bhavani Ni Vaav, Asarwa
The Mata Bhavani Vaav in Asarwa area of Ahmedabad is one of the oldest step-wells in the city, believed to have been constructed in the 11th century. It is believed that an idol of the goddess was installed in the step-well in recent history, and several smaller shrines added later. The vaav now functions as a place of worship for the community living around it, and is managed by the temple trust.