Category Archives: Gujarat

Rani-ki-vav – sculptural marvels in a step-well

           A astounding marvel in architecture of a step-well along with embellishments of 500 principal and 1000 other minor sculptural creations are waiting to amaze visitors at Patan in Gujarat, India. Built in the 11th century on the bank of the river Saraswati by Rani Udaymati, wife of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. Hence it is called Rani ki vav or the Queen’s step-well.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The step-well has seven levels of stairs with the panels embellished with sculptures. The themes are mostly religious or mythological. Udayamati was the daughter of Navavaraha Khangera and commissioned the step-well in memory of her husband Bhima I who ruled between 1022 and 1064 A.D. The step-well is well preserved because it was flooded by the Saraswati river and had got silted. This entire creation took 20 years to be made.

 

Ornamental pillars, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         Art historians Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site when it was totally in mud. They thought it was ahuge pit. However in the 1940s the excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India took it further by more excavation and in 2014 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The entrance is located in the East while the well is located at the Westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. There is a compartmentalised stepped corridor with multi-storeyed pillared pavillions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are all ornamented and embellished with carvings and scroll work, The niches too demand attention by their ornamentation with figures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.

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Lord Rama, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Sculptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          The sculptures depict Gods, Goddesses, celestial beings, men, women, priests, birds and animals. Lord Vishnu image is the maximum form depicted here as ‘Seshasayi’ and ‘Viswaroopa’ and also as ‘Dasavatara’. Hindu deities Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Gods Ganesha, Kubera, Surya, Indra and Hayagriva are also depicted here. One finds Uma-Maheshwara, Lakhsmi-Nararayana, Ardhnarishwara, Chamunda, Mahisasuramardini, the Saptammatrikas and the images of Navagraha or nine planets as well. This step-well brings out the sanctity of water as a life giving force. This step-well is a form of subterranean water architecture and is like an inverted temple, a water management system symbolising the technological height of the step-well tradition in India.

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Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Mahisasuramardini, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

There are also celestial beings like Apsaras and celestial dancers and a Naga princess. also common men and women doing their daily activities, women holding children. Every sculpture seems sublime and infused with a special quality. The expressions have beauty and balance to mesmerize the onlooker. The jewellery and hairstyles depicted are also unique and can be a study on its own !

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Apsara , Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scroll designs and lattice patterns, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Varaha avatar, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          It is a fine and exquisite stepwell, classified as a Nanda type. It  is 65 m long, 20 m wide and 28 m deep. The fourth level is deepest and leads to a rectangular well. However at present the ground water levels have changed following the Saraswati river’s relocation.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

 

References :

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Temple of Gop : an ancient marvel in Western India

       The Gop temple is one of the oldest stone temples of Gujarat in Western India. It was built in late 6th or early 7th century. Located in the Jamnagar district it has Gandhara architecture with a square shrine. Surrounded by double courtyards it has a unique shikhara. It is on  the bank of Vartu river, south-west of Gop Hill of Barda Hills. The art is a blend of Gandhara and north Indian Gupta art styles, including Kushana influence.

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Gop temple, north west view, image,1874.

By Burgess, James, 1874 – http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/o/largeimage62882.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44074068

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Inscription,Gop temple,Gujarat.

By James Burgess – Report on the Antiquities of Kutch & Kathiawar: Being the Result of the Second Season’s Operations of the Archaeological Survey of Western India, 1874-1875 p.187, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50922647

 

     The walls of the temple do not have any carvings, the shrine faces east like many temples in India. The shikhara is like a pyramid. The temple rests on a jagati  with a projection on the east but is otherwise square. There are three dormer windows called chandrasala which are on the slopes of the shikhara.  This temple was built by the Maitraka dynasty which was ruling Saurastra during the time. The Maitrakas came to power after the fall of the Guptas and are believed to have built over one hundred temples in the region.The Maitrakas ruled for over 250 years and are known to have given many grants for the construction of religious buildings. Their capital was Valabhi, an ancient sea port linking India with Persia and EuropeThe Chinese traveller Hsuen -Tsang  visited Valabhi in 640 A.D, the ancient capital of the Maitrakas.

      Large heavy blocks of stone have been used for the construction of the temple. There might have been steps to take the devotee to the entrance of the temple. The temple has been built without any cementing material. It is made of coursed ashlar which are 8 inches deep and jointed. The shikhara is made of six courses with one slab covering the apex with an amalaka on it. The dormer arches or chaitya windows of the shikhara in two tiers had sculptures of gods and a figure of Ganesha is still  seen on the temple’s west side. The holes which might have supported beams to hold the roof of the first inner courtyard can be seen clearly. The courtyards served as pradakshinapatha or circum-ambulatory path for the devotees. The yellow stone deities inside of the shrine are  Lord Rama with a high square mukuta or crown and Lakshmana with a lower  crown, believed  locally by people in the area.

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Gop temple, image,1999.

By Arnold Betten (eigenes Foto (Dia)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author