‘Rani-ki-Vav’, an 11th century stepwell in Gujarat, has been approved as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO which described it as “exceptional example of technological development” in utilizing ground water resources.
“Stepwell Rani-ki-Vav has been approved for inscription on the World Heritage list. The recognition was granted by the UNESCO at the World Heritage Committee Session currently on at Doha, Qatar,” the Culture Ministry said in Delhi today.
“UNESCO has recognized this masterpiece as an exceptional example of technological development in utilizing ground water resources in a single component, water management system and it illustrates the exceptional capacity to break large spaces into smaller volumes following ideal aesthetic proportions,” it said in a statement.
Rani-ki-Vav, a unique type of Indian subterranean architectural structure, marks the zenith in the evolution of stepwells in India, it said, adding that it is a particularly large and complex example of a stepwell with seven storeys of ornamented panels of sculptures and relief representing the height of the Maru-Gurjara style.
Following the flooding and disappearance of the Saraswati River due to geotectonic changes, the property was buried under layers of silt for almost seven centuries and has been preserved underneath in an exceptional state of conservation by the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI.
It was nominated by ASI for the World Heritage List of UNESCO in February last year.
The inscription of Rani-ki-Vav on the World Heritage List as the single most example of a stepwell is a testimony to the traditional water systems of India, it said.
There are already 30 World Heritage Sites in India — 24 Cultural sites and six Natural properties. The Gujarat’s stepwell will be the 31st such site in the country.
Description by Archaeological Survey of India
This magnificent step well is said to have been constructed by Udayamati, the Queen of Bhimdeva-I (AD 1022-1063) in the last quarter of the 11th Century AD. Bhimdeva-I was te son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anahilwada Patan.
The vav measuring about 64 m long, 20 m wide and 27m deep is laid out in the East-West direction with well proper in the west. This well has a pillared multi storied pavilion. A drawn well and a large tank for collecting surplus water. It must have been one of the largest and the most sumptuous structures of its kind.
The architectural brilliance and elegance of the vav, is represented in the pristine glory in the ornamental work. The beautifully proportioned sculptures of gracefully carved Mahishasurmardini, Parvati and other shaiva sculptures, Vishnu in different forms, Bhairava, Ganesha, Surya, Kubera, Lakshminarayana, Ashtadikpalas and other forms adorn the walls. The female figures have been depicted in various poses of Apsaras, Nagakanyas, Yoginis etc.
After independence, Rani ki Vav came into the custody of Archeological Survey of India and was declared a protected monument of national importance.
This step well was buried for centuries and suffered damage in the past due to negligence and floods in the river Saraswati. Till 1960’s, nobody knew that there exists the most ornate and highly sculptured Vav. At this time, the Vav was completely filled up except the top.
Archeological Survey of India started excavations here in 1958. The painstaking efforts of Archeological Survey of India exposed the hidden treasures of the sculptural and architectural wealth in its original dimension and splendor through careful excavation, desilting and removal of debris. The loose sculptures, architectural members and stones fallen in the Vav were lifted and set right in their position.
Befitting its name, the Rani ki Vav, is now considered to be the queen among the step wells of India.