Into the oldest stepwell of Ahmedabad: Mata Bhavani Vav

Into the oldest stepwell of Ahmedabad: Mata Bhavani Vav

Built in the 11th century during the Solanki period, the stepwell is today celebrated for its shrine of the Goddess.

Tucked away in the Asarwa neighborhood of Ahmedabad, lies a hidden treasure that whispers tales of ancient opulence and spiritual significance—the Mata Bhavani Vav. This stepwell, dating back to the 11th century, stands as the oldest testament to the architectural prowess of the Solanki Rajputs of the Chalukyan dynasty that once ruled Gujarat.

The Solanki Rajputs, known for their strategic investments in water-harvesting structures, left an indelible mark on the landscape of Gujarat. Mata Bhavani Vav, with its intricate design and historical significance, stands as a prime example of their commitment to both utility and aesthetic beauty. This stepwell is not merely a reservoir; it is a work of art, a journey into the depths of history and spirituality.

Solanki architecture with a shrine dedicated to Mata Bhavani

As one approaches Mata Bhavani Vav, the grandeur of its design becomes apparent. A long flight of steps leads visitors three stories down to the water level, creating a mesmerizing visual spectacle. Along the east-west axis, three open pavilions stand as sentinels, each adorned with elaborate ornamentation on columns, brackets, and beams. These early examples showcase how Chalukyan stepwells transcended mere functionality, evolving into expressions of art and architectural brilliance.

The stepwell derives its name from a relatively recent addition—a shrine dedicated to Mata Bhavani. Unlike other vavs in Gujarat, where small parts are repurposed as shrines, Mata Bhavani Vav stands out as the entire structure has been transformed into a temple celebrating the Goddess. The transition from a utilitarian water-harvesting structure to a sacred space is a unique feature that adds to the mystique of Mata Bhavani Vav.

Intricate design and beauty 

While the embellishments may appear garish to some, peeling away the layers reveals the simplicity of the stepwell's original design. A stepped walkway gracefully descends for three levels, culminating at the bottom in a square tank—a distinctive feature that sets Mata Bhavani Vav apart. The tank, surrounded by lush vegetation, adds a touch of serenity to the architectural marvel.

At the top of the stepwell, three pavilion towers stand proudly, their fronts and tops adorned with rich stone work. Lions, used as motifs in some corners, add a regal touch to the overall ambiance.

As visitors traverse the steps of Mata Bhavani Vav, they embark on a dual journey—exploring the depths of architectural brilliance and connecting with the divine through the shrine to Mata Bhavani. The stepwell is not just a remnant of the past; it is a living testament to the cultural heritage of Gujarat, inviting all who visit to unravel its mysteries and partake in the spiritual serenity that permeates its hallowed grounds.

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