Over the last few years, the number of digital transactions we all have done has been immense. In October 2020 alone, Indians made a whopping 2 Billion transactions via UPI! In this age where everything is digital, how many of us have actually used cash? I’ll be frank, it’s been ages since I actually used cash. And by the way of that, most of us would have forgotten what all the Indian Rupee note tells us. Apart from the denomination, Gandhiji and RBI Governor’s signature, an Indian note always carries a motif on it.
One such motif present on the lavender coloured 100 Rupee Note is Rani Ki Vav in Patan. The Queen’s Stepwell is one of the World’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and is featured on the 100 Rupee Note. And guess what, as part of my recent FAM trip to Gujarat, I got to witness the incredible Rani Ki Vav.
The Town of Patan
Gujarat is quite a popular tourist destination in India. They’ve got some wonderful sites of religious, cultural and architectural importance. While most of mostly know of places like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot & Gandhinagar there are a lot of other beautiful places in Gujarat worth exploring. For instance, Saputara where I was a few months ago. Similarly, another small town in the state of Gujarat is Patan. Did you know that Patan used to be Gujarat’s capital during the reign of Chalukyas & Chavdas? The town has a history of Hindu and Muslim rulers thus making it an important trading city and capital of the region.
Today Patan is the administrative centre for the Patan district. It is home to a lot of Hindu & Jain temples along with mosques and dargahs. It is also located on the banks of the extinct river Saraswati. This river finds a mention in the Rig Veda and is described as the holy river in North-Western India. ISRO has also found that parts of the Indus Valley Civilization in sites like Dholavira, Lothal also lay along the course of this river. Rani Ki Vav was developed along the banks of the river Saraswati which today is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
The Incredible Rani Ki Vav
Stepwells in Gujarat were not merely sites to collect water but slowly developed into sites of religious importance. There are not one but many step wells in the state. One of them was Adalaj Ni Vav that I visited a few months back. Rani Ki Vav is the largest and the biggest stepwell in the state (if not the World). It was constructed during the rule of the Solanki dynasty in around 1603 and took almost 20 years to be completed. Rani Udayamati commissioned this vav in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I. The vav was later flooded by the Saraswati river and silted.
In the 1890s, James Burgess, an Archaeologist visit the area that was completely buried except for a few pillars and shafts. According to him, it was a pit measuring at least 285mts. In the 1940s, the first excavation was done under the Baroda State. The major excavation was done by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1986 and the restoration work was carried until 1987.
Rani Ki Vav is the epitome of craftsmanship and fine architecture. Since it was built during the Solanki dynasty, it followed the Maru-Gurjara architectural style. This style was unique to the dynasty which involved intricate and lavishly decorated interiors and sharply carved statues on the exterior. This style was adopted by a lot of Jain temples in the region as well. The sculptures at Rani Ki Vav will leave you spellbound with gracefully carved sculptures of Parvati, Vishnu Buddha and other forms. There are over 500 principle structures and over a thousand minor ones that showcase the religious, mythological and secular imagery. The intricate designs include gods & goddesses, men & women, animals, birds and fishes along with plants and trees.
As our guide, Girish told us, the architecture of Rani Ki Vav has put a lot of emphasis on women. And hence you’ll see a lot of sculptures depicting women in the best of their avatars a.k.a Apsaras. One of the sculptures shows a woman applying lipstick. There’s another one where a woman is seen writing a letter and many more depicting women from their day to day avatar. The carvings show a lot of human emotions from love to care and lust. There are even walls that are carved with what seems to be Patola designs. Overall, you’ll need a day to witness the glory of Rani ki Vav and anything less would be disrespectful to the place.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Getting on to UNESCO’s world heritage site isn’t very easy. UNESCO has set 10 criteria based on which it decided whether to include a place on the world heritage site list or not. Of the ten, Rani ki Vav satisfied two criteria, the first one that represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and the second one that it’s an outstanding example of an architectural building that illustrates significant stages in human history. Read more about Rani Ki Vav World Heritage Site.
Rani ki Vav was also awarded the cleanest iconic place in India. And after visiting the place I can say it surely is. The lush green lawns around the stepwell are well maintained. The security there ensures that nobody goes too close to the sculptures to cause any damage. In terms of maintenance, surely one of the well-maintained places by ASI. This plus the inclusion in the list of World Heritage Sites, the RBI decided to celebrate this by putting Rani Ki Vav on the 100 Rupee Note. I was so thrilled and amazed to see the place in real life that I forgot to click a picture!
Uncover the sands of Time at Rani Ki Vav
While we would have loved to explore more of Rani Ki Vav but were running short of time. The massive stepwell is indeed a fine example of human creative genius. I’m sure you’ll get goosebumps when you get the first glimpse of this massive stepwell. The place is magical but the stories behind each of the sculptures are even more interesting.
Many of the sculptures show how progressive and creative the world was back then. Something that we are losing today. I’d suggest hiring a guide so that they’ll help you identify all the elegant sculptures across the stepwell. I didn’t find the audio guide that is present at a lot of other monuments across India.
So the next time you plan a trip to Gujarat, try to add Patan to your itinerary. Trust me Rani Ki Vav will be totally worth it. Not every day you’ll come across a place as beautiful as this. I’m so glad that this trip happened and I got a chance to explore Rani Ki Vav. Let me know your thoughts about this post? Have you visited the place already? If not, what do you like the most about this post? Let me know in the comments below, Tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram or Get In Touch.
Note: I was invited by Gujarat Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism to explore the state. Hence everything on the trip was taken care of by them.