Gujarat's stepwell 'Rani-Ki-Vav' gets UNESCO World Heritage tag

Rani-ki-Vav is located on the banks of the Saraswati river and was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD


BS Reporter Ahmedabad
The Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) located in North Gujarat district of Patan has been inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List on Sunday. Three other cultural site Namhansanseong  (Republic of Korea), The Grand Canal (China), Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (China, Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan) have also been included in the list of World Heritage sites.  With today’s inscriptions, the total number of sites on the World Heritage List has climbed to 992.

“The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Doha (Qatar) under the Chair of Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, this morning  (Sunday) inscribed four cultural sites in the Republic of Korea, China, and India on the World Heritage List, as well as a section of the Silk Roads network, submitted by Kyrgyzstan, China and Kazakhstan,” stated an official release by the UNSECO.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a matter of great pride and suggested that one must visit the Rani Ki Vav next time he or she visits Gujarat. “Rani Ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat has been added to the UNESCO #WorldHeritage list! A matter of great pride for us,” Modi Tweeted. “Next time you visit Gujarat, you must visit Rani Ki Vav, an excellent symbol of our great art & culture,” he added on the microblogging site.

The Rani-ki-Vav  (the Queen’s Stepwell) is located on the banks of the Saraswati river and was  initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Queen Udayamati commissioned this stepwell, in 1063 A D in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. The vav was excavated in late 1980s by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), 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.

Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture.

Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions.

Designed as an  inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is  divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures  and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works.

The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank of  9.5 by 9.4 metres, at  a depth of  23 metres. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft, 10 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep.        

The Namhansanseong in Republic of Korea was designed as an emergency capital for the Joson Dynasty (1392-1910) , in a mountainous site 25 kilometres  south-east of Seoul.   Built and defended by Buddhist monk-soldiers, it could accommodate 4,000 people and fulfilled important  administrative and military functions.

Its earliest remains date from the 7th century, but  it was rebuilt several times, notably in the early 17th century  in anticipation of an attack from the Sino-Manchu Qing dynasty.

The Grand Cana in China is a vast waterway system in the north-eastern and central-eastern plains of China, running from Beijing in the north to Zhejiang province in the south.

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First Published: Jun 22 2014 | 8:58 PM IST

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