Rani ki vav – The Inverted Stepwell Temple

Related Articles

Rani ki vav is an ancient stepwell temple located on the banks of the Saraswati River, in the Gujarat state of India.

A stepwell is generally defined as a cistern or irrigation tank, reached by descending a set of steps to the water level. Stepwells became common throughout India, with several being associated with ritual cleansing or rites of consecration in veneration of deities within “stepwell temples” or “temple tanks”.

Rani ki vav is one such stepwell temple, designed in the Maru-Gurjara architectural style (a style of north Indian temple architecture from the 11th to 13th centuries AD) in the form of an inverted Nanda-type stepwell temple to represent the sanctity of water.


The temple was constructed during the 11th century AD and is attributed to the Chaulukya dynasty (also known as the Chalukyas of Gujarat or the Solanki dynasty) which ruled parts of what is now Gujarat and Rajasthan in north-western India.

Image Credit : Krishan 1 – CC BY-SA 4.0

The first mention of the temple dates from AD 1304, when the Jain monk Merutunga composed the Prabandha-Chintamani (medieval Indian Sanskrit literature) which mentions “Udayamati, the daughter of Naravaraha Khengara, built this novel stepwell at Shripattana (Patan) surpassing the glory of the Sahastralinga Tank”.

Rani ki vav consists of 212 ornately carved pillars over seven levels of stairs which leads down to a circular well. The walls are adorned with various figures and sculptures, numbering 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor depictions of numerous deities that includes Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, goddesses (Devi), Ganesha, Kubera, Lakulisha, Bhairava, Surya, Indra, and Hayagriva.

Over the centuries the stepwell was flooded by the Saraswati River, depositing layers of silt with each flood event that eventually led to the temple being buried.

Excavations during the 1940’s first began to reveal the monumental size of Rani ki vav, with the first major excavation and restoration project being conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 1986.

In 2014, Rani ki vav was recognised into the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list as an ancient monument of national importance by the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Act of 1958.

Header Image Credit : Bernard Gagnon – CC BY-SA 3.0

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Sungbo’s Eredo – The “Queen of Sheba’s Embankment”

Sungbo’s Eredo is one of the largest man-made monuments in Africa, consisting of a giant system of ditches and embankments that surrounds the entire ljebu Kingdom in the rain forests of south-western Nigeria.

Woolly Mammoths May Have Shared the Landscape With First Humans in New England

Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a Dartmouth study published in Boreas.

Prehistoric killing machine exposed

Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, gigantic skull and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago - during a period known as the middle Permian - was a ferocious carnivore.

Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City

Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

10 British Iron Age Hill Forts

A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

Stabiae – The Roman Resort Buried by Mount Vesuvius

Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

Astronomers Accurately Measure the Temperature of Red Supergiant Stars

Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

Researchers Overturn Hypothesis That Ancient Mammal Ancestors Moved Like Modern Lizards

The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

Popular stories

Ani – The Abandoned Medieval City

Ani is a ruined medieval city, and the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, located in the Eastern Anatolia region of the Kars province in present-day Turkey.

Interactive Map of Earth’s Asteroid and Meteor Impact Craters

Across the history of our planet, around 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified that still survive the Earth’s geological processes, with the most recent event occurring in 1947 at the Sikhote-Alin Mountains of south-eastern Russia.

The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

Exploring the Avebury Stone Circle Landscape

The area was designated part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites by UNESCO in 1986, in recognition for one of the most architecturally sophisticated stone circles in the world, in addition to the rich Neolithic, and Bronze age remains found nearby, such as the West Kennet Avenue, Beckhampton Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, and Windmill Hill.