Rani Ki Vav
Rani (Queen) Udayamati commissioned this vav or stepwell, in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. The vav was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati river and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. Rani Ki Vav is amongst the finest stepwells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.
The vavs of Gujarat are not merely sites for collecting water and socialising, but also simultaneously hold great spiritual significance. They 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. You may thus enter Rani Ki Vav as if it is a subterranean temple.
The steps begin at ground level, leading you down through the cool air through several pillared pavilions to reach the deep well below. There are more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers), painting their lips and adorning themselves. At water level you come to a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, where it is said he rests in the infinity between ages.
Open from 8am to 6pm.
Entry fee for Indians Rs. 5/-, Foreigners 2 USD
How to get there
By road: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker, but less comfortable.
By rail: The train can take you as far as Mehsana (1.5 hours). From there you will need to catch a bus to Patan.
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad.