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Unique ancient step wells in India
Unique ancient step wells in India

Climatic conditions play a fundamental role in organizing the life of any people, especially when it comes to water supply. India is no exception, in which stepped wells have been created since ancient times - grandiose masterpieces of underground architecture.

These examples of ancient architecture are outstanding landmarks, less known than temples and palaces.

1. The history of the centuries-old culture of underground construction in India

The stepped wells of India are mysterious underground staircases that lead not only to life-giving moisture

Wells were always created in order to extract groundwater. In each locality, these hydraulic structures have original forms, structural features and occupy a special place in culture.

India was no exception, with its hot climate, where droughts could do a lot of troubles. Therefore, it came as no surprise that in this South Asian country, wells with water have turned into sacred places, which are associated with the construction of stepped structures of enormous size.

At all times, women were involved in the delivery of water from such wells (India) The simplest designs of stepped wells (India)

Reference:Step wells that go to a considerable depth are called in India "baudi", "baori" or "baoli". Their uniqueness lies in the fact that the steps are made along all four walls of the well and descend into the depth in the same steps along the spiral / perimeter. This allows you to get to the water, no matter what level it is.

Studies show that due to the special design and the ability to collect rainwater, life-giving moisture in the wells has always been, even in the driest season. I would like to note that this kind of hydraulic structures, which are also architectural masterpieces, are found only in India.

The beauty of the forms of hydraulic structures has been surprising for more than one hundred years (India)

Baori construction began at the beginning of our era (approximately II-IV centuries AD). And if initially these were the simplest structures, then with time and the development of engineering technologies they acquired truly temple outlines, because water has always played a fundamental role in religious rituals.

2. The device of a stepped well

Careful calculations were required to create stepped wells (India)

When creating wells, a deep hole was dug. As a rule, it was square, but there are triangular and round objects. But no matter what shape the structure had, it certainly deepened and narrowed to the bottom, such an inverted pyramid.

Its inner part was stepped, which made it possible to descend to the very bottom of the well. Since the Indians did not rely only on groundwater, drainage channels were installed in them, allowing the structures to be filled almost to the brim during the rainy season.

For many centuries the descent turned into a ritual pilgrimage

Some objects were dug so deep that it was problematic to get to the water during a drought, because it is very difficult to overcome several thousand steps in the heat.

So, for example, in the deepest well in India, in Chand Baori, located in Gujarat, built in the 9th century. during the reign of King Chand, almost 3, 5 thousand steps on 13 levels. Since the depth of this well exceeds 20 m, in order to facilitate the descent and ascent of the inhabitants, large-scale terraces and small indoor recreation pavilions were created.

At 13 levels of the well, about 3.5 thousand

Interesting fact: The Chand Baori well became the prototype for the Pit prison from The Dark Knight Rises. Part of the filming took place in it, although many assumed that it was computer graphics.

3. From shrine to complete oblivion

Agrasen-ki-Baoli is one of the most unusual stepped wells in India

More recently, these wells were not only the main source of water, but also the main shrines, in which temples with all the entourage were created. As a result, they carried out religious rituals with washing hands and feet, which means that the water became a breeding ground for bacteria and various infections.

The Rani-ki-Vav temple complex is a real pearl of ancient art (India)

The outrageous unsanitary conditions caused the British, who control India, to issue a ban on the use of water from such wells. This happened back in the 19th century, although modern epidemiologists, bacteriologists and parasitologists unanimously argue that a sip of water from these "shrines" can kill a person in just 2-3 days. Considering the complete unsanitary conditions, and a considerable danger during the descent / ascent, most of the wells were closed or movement restrictions were installed.

Rani-ki-Vav step well was designed as an inverted temple with seven levels at different depths (India)

Some sites are of particular archaeological value, such as the Rani-ki-Vav (Queen's Well) located in Patan, Gujarat. Back in the 11th century, it was not just built as a well - a temple complex of fantastic beauty was erected on one of the levels.

Its depth reaches 24 m with a width and length of 20 m and 64 m, respectively. Due to the fact that the "Queen's Well" was soon flooded by the Saraswati River, the silt literally conserved the amazing object and helped to preserve about 500 sculptures, more than a thousand small bas-relief religious and mythological subjects, as well as columns and their patterned decorations. The complex was completely cleared only at the end of the 20th century, and in 2014 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Most of the old wells are already abandoned, but tourists and pilgrims visit them with pleasure (India)

Most of the old wells are already abandoned, but tourists and pilgrims visit them with pleasure.

4. Tourist attractions

Solar Temple of Modera in Suria Kund (Gujarat, India)

At the moment, many ancient stepped wells are already completely abandoned, flooded and populated with all kinds of unpleasant living creatures and debris. But the most impressive ones still act as temples, to which not only streams of pilgrims rush, but also crowds of curious tourists. In these beautiful, but rather extreme cult sites, rituals are still held, but it is strictly forbidden to swim, drink water, although washing of the feet is allowed.

Many wells and underground "inverted temples" are especially attractive (India)

Many wells and underground "inverted temples" have a special appeal.

Some of the wells that have survived are striking in their scale and beauty no less than the palaces of the Maharajas (India)

Tourists wishing to visit such an object should be warned that going down the narrow steps of some temples-wells is not so easy, you need good physical preparation, and you should also be extremely careful, especially after rains.

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