Among the finest examples of stepwells in Gujarat, about 19 km north of Ahmedabad, lies Adalaj Vav or Adalaj Stepwell. It was built by queen Rudadevi, wife of Veer Singh, the chief of Vaghela dynasty, in 1499, in her husband’s memory. Legend has it that in the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh ruled over the region that was known as Dandai Desh back then. As the kingdom always faced water shortage and was dependent on rains, the ruler ordered the construction of a large and deep well. But before it could be completed, neighbouring Muslim ruler, Mohammed Begda, attacked Dandai Desh and Veer Singh was killed. Though his widow wanted to perform sati (a ritual of widows immolating themselves when their husband dies) , Begda stopped her and told her that he wanted to marry her. She agreed on the condition that he complete the construction of the stepwell first. Begda agreed and the stepwell was made in record time. But the queen had other plans. She first circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and thereafter jumped into it to be one with her husband. What is unique about this stepwell is that it has three entrances, giving way to a platform resting on 16 pillars. All three of the stairway entrances meet underground where the platform has an octagonal top. The corners of all 16 platforms have shrines carved into them. The well is five floors deep and apart from deities, the carvings portray a wide range of subjects, from women churning butter to them adorning themselves in front of a mirror. The stepwell, in its time, gave shelter to pilgrims and traders. It is believed that the villagers used to come here to fill water and offer prayers to the deities. Experts in the field of architecture and archaeology believe that due to its octagonal ceiling, little air or sunlight entered the landing, the reason why the temperature inside is always cooler than outside. The vav is a spectacular specimen of Indo-Islamic architecture with fine Jain symbols as a reflection of the period it was built in. Worth a visit are kalpvriksha (tree of life) and ami khumbor (pot containing water of life) that have been carved out of single slab of stone. Locals believe that the small frieze of navgrahas or nine planets near the well’s edge protects the monument from evil spirits. 

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