She decided to carve a memorial in his name So she called for artisans with acclaim. They chiselled & carved 7 levels of stone Rani Ki Vav or the Queen's Stepwell, is what it is now renowned. A befitting and a rare tribute by a Queen - for her King. Discover the ornate Rani Ki Vav Patan - a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Gujarat.
Imagine that someone has inverted an ornate temple like the Sun temple of Modhera, deep into the ground. Picture those exquisitely carved pillars standing upright to form different levels of a grand stepwell and how those stairs funnel down to the water source in the end. That is exactly, how one can describe this UNESCO World Heritage site – Rani Ki Vav Gujarat. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest stepwells in India, this gorgeous monument has now been commemorated on the INR 100 currency note. With my recent visit to this Gujarat step well, I promise you that Rani ni Vav lives up to every bit of this glorious reputation of being the Queen of Stepwells.
When I first visited Adalaj ni Vav in Ahmedabad, I discovered that the stepwells in Gujarat have more than just a functional value. They are architectural masterpieces. I recall one statement that my guide at Adalaj had made – “If you find Adalaj so beautiful, then you will be floored by the art at Rani ki Vav in Patan.” True to his prediction, I found myself totally enamored by the Queen’s stepwell in Patan.
As you go along this tour of Rani ki Vav, I am sure that you too will fall in love with this place and its rich history. I have included the key attractions of this Patan stepwell to ensure that you don’t miss those sights. Also, to help you visit Rani Ki Vav, I have included useful tips and suggestions. From how to get to Patan to the best time to visit & where to stay – I have you covered in this guide to Rani ki Vav in Gujarat.
- 1 The significance of stepwells in Gujarat
- 2 History of Rani ki Vav Patan | Who built Rani Ki Vav in Patan?
- 3 Facts about Rani ki Vav stepwell
- 4 Rani ki Vav architecture & plan
- 5 What to see at Rani ki Vav Gujarat? | Sculptures of Rani Ki Vav
- 6 Common FAQs about Rani Ki Vav Patan
- 7 Where is Rani Ki Vav located?
- 8 How to reach Rani ki Vav?
- 9 How much are the Rani Ki Vav entry fees?
- 10 What are the Rani Ki Vav Patan timings?
- 11 Which is the best time to visit Rani Ki Vav in Patan?
- 12 Is Rani Ki Vav a UNESCO world heritage site?
- 13 On which currency note, can you find the Rani ki Vav image?
- 14 Which are the other places to visit near Rani Ki Vav Patan?
- 15 Which is the best place to stay near Rani Ki Vav?
- 16 Can you do a day trip from Ahmedabad to Rani Ki Vav?
- 17 Photography and Travel Tips
- 18 Booking resources
The significance of stepwells in Gujarat
In my earlier post on Adalaj stepwell, I covered the importance of stepwells in India. However, in this post, I would like to share why they are particularly important in Gujarat. Historically this region has always had an arid climate. The only rivers that flowed through the land were the monsoon-fed ones. To supplement this source, the people relied on groundwater – for which they required deep wells – called vavs. And thus, came the construction of numerous step wells throughout the state.
These stepwells doubled up as a source of shelter for weary travelers (a large part of the silk route passed through Gujarat) and a congregation center for local gossip and festivities. Thus, the construction of these Gujarat stepwells became elaborate & ornate. Quite a few of them had multiple levels to allow large crowds.
There are four types of stepwells found in Gujarat. The classification of these is based on the number of entrances each one had –
- Nanda – a vav with a single entrance. Rani Ki Vav is the finest example of this type where you have only one point of entry and exit.
- Bhadra – a vav with 2 entrances
- Jaya – Adalaj ni Vav is a Jaya type of stepwell – one that has three entrances.
- Vijaya – A stepwell with four entrances like the Surya Kund of Sun Temple in Modhera.
With this as a background, let us dive into the Rani ki Vav history.
History of Rani ki Vav Patan | Who built Rani Ki Vav in Patan?
Let’s begin with the significance of Patan and why this particular city was chosen for this famous stepwell in India. For almost 200 years, Gujarat was ruled by the Chavda dynasty. In 746 CE, it was Vanraj Chavda who established a new capital by the name of Anahilavada by the banks of the river Saraswati. The city was named after a shepherd – Anahila who guided this king to the place where he saw a hare chasing after a dog. Vanraj Chavda took that as a sign of power and miracle and thus, began ruling from this capital.
Combine your Patan trip with a visit to the Sun Temple of Modhera
Located just 30 km from Patan, it is pretty common for visitors to the Queen’s stepwell to visit the Modhera Sun Temple – another example of the various stunning monuments built by the Solanki dynasty. In fact, I highly recommend that you do the same and if you need further convincing, take a virtual tour of the Sun Temple Gujarat here.
History refers to this city by many names – Anahilapataka, Anahilavada and Anhilpur Patan. Gradually, it came to be known as Patan and later moved from the Chavdas to the Solankis (also, called Chaulukyas). The Solankis rule is considered to be the golden era of Gujarat. Many significant developments occurred during their rule, especially King Bhima I in the 11th century. He was the one who built the famous Modhera Sun Temple and the Dilwara temples in Mount Abu. It was for him, that in the late 11th century – his wife Rani Udayamati commissioned the construction of this stunning stepwell in Patan.
It is believed that the construction of the Queen’s stepwell started in 1032 CE and it took over 20 years for it to finish. It was completed by Rani Udayamati’s son – King Karna. After a few years, there was a flood on the river Saraswati that covered this structure completely with silt. With the river changing course, the lovely stepwell was soon forgotten until a farmer found some unique stones while plowing. He in fact, took those away for building another temple. It was in 1958 when excavations began under ASI (Archaeological society of India) and slowly, over the next 32 years, Rani ki Vav Patan was unearthed. It was finally recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. Today, you can see an image of it on the new Rupees 100 currency note.
Facts about Rani ki Vav stepwell
There is no doubt that the history of this Queen’s stepwell creates intrigue about the place. However, here are some amazing Rani ki vav facts that will make you go WOW
- The story of Rani Ki Vav Gujarat is one of a kind. It is the only structure that was made by a Queen for a king. Usually, most monuments like the Taj Mahal are dedicated by the Kings.
- This Gujarat stepwell in Patan was 7 levels deep and had around 292 carved pillars (only 226 survive today).
- There are around 500 major sculptures of key deities and another 1000 carvings of minor ones in Rani ni Vav Patan – that is a total of 1500 structures.
- The Patan Rani ki Vav is the only stepwell that has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- It now features on the new lavender-colored 100 Rupee currency note of India.
Rani ki Vav architecture & plan
The architectural style of Rani ni Vav is the Maru-Gurjara style – which is the same as what one sees at the Modhera temple. Made with sandstone, the Queen’s stepwell is 65 m long along the East-West axis and 20 m wide. It is spread across 12 acres and has a total of 7 levels. The structural plan of Rani Ki Vav is truly ingenious. It not only ensures that the grand stepwell is strong enough to withstand collapse but also takes care of any possible flooding. In other words, the architecture of Rani Ki Vav ensures that it doubles up as a water source and a reservoir.
When you visit Rani Ki Vav today, you will see that the first two levels are quite bare. The details and carvings here have been lost over time. In fact, the main entrance of the Queen’s stepwell in Patan had a beautiful gateway or toran but sadly, there are no vestiges of the same. As you descend down, you will see that the master architects of that time have thoughtfully laid out the staircases. While the main steps are wide and high, between them are smaller pyramidical steps that make your movement through the step well easy. This inverted pyramid shape of steps is yet another common feature of this stepwell and the Sun temple of Modhera. You will also, find these in the Rajasthan step wells like Chand Baori.
The flight of steps leads to the various pavillions and corridors with the surviving 226 pillars. The steps lead to a kunda (water tank), a draw well (28 m deep) and a large reservoir to store the surplus water. The well itself has seven levels of which the first three are terraced. The topmost level is 10 m in diameter after which the rest of the layers funnel right to the bottom. The lowest layers are the ones that are connected to the reservoir.
The main source of water for Rani ki Vav Patan was not just the ground water but the River Saraswati which was just 500m away. During the monsoons, the water would rise right upto the level 3 or 4 of the well and later in the year, it would recede back to level 6.
Imagine how deep a trench they would have had to construct in order to go down to 28m. Think of how strong the embankments must be to withstand the pressure at that subterranean level. In fact, the stepwells have double layered where the outer layer that is 45cm thick is supported by a layer of bricks. Furthermore, the interconnected pavilions and pillars added to the strength of the two major walls – ensuring that they do not collapse.
Another interesting aspect of the Rani Ki Vav architecture is that the whole structure has been built using an interlocking mechanism. There were two types of interlocks used – the first found in the pillars is a stone was locked with a stone. The second type was found on the floors where between the stones, a piece of shisham wood was inserted and locked together. The reason for that was during rains or floods, the wood would expand and fill the gaps between the locked stones – ensuring further stability.
The entire structure as I mentioned, is akin to an inverted temple where the last level or the core is filled with water – considered to be sacred as the deities. The most beautiful feature (and my favorite) are the 1500 sculptures on the walls and the pillars. Whether major or minor, there are such stunning details included in each piece. And that is what makes them the key attractions of Rani ki Vav.
Book your day trip to Modhera and Patan from Ahmedabad
What to see at Rani ki Vav Gujarat? | Sculptures of Rani Ki Vav
The first two levels, on account of the damage barely have any major sculptures. However, as you descend to the third level, you will find yourself star-struck.
500 major deities and 1000 smaller ones carved along the walls of the Rani Ki Vav – each one with intricate details and expressions. The experience of observing each one is nothing short of overwhelming. However, there is a certain order to this mind-boggling splendor. For one, they are arranged in a particular order. They can also, be classified into certain themes – Lord Vishnu being the central one.
There are three major bands of these sculptures. The large panels have the major deities interspersed with sculptures of apsaras. The hero sculpture is either projected or has been inserted into a niche. Below this panel is carvings of various mythological creatures (termed as Kirtimukhas). And the last panel is just ornamental. The pillars of the various pavillions and the stepped corridor have floral designs along with the Hindu Kalash (pot) carvings.
Through this section, I am going to help you identify these sculptures of Rani Ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat. Consider them as clues for a treasure hunt. Bookmark this section or take a print for your trip – just so that you have it all handy.
Many of you might be familiar with the story of the 10 avatars of Vishnu. In fact, this is one of the most common themes used in various Hindu temples like the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebid, the Badami caves, Brihadeeswarar temple etc. As the story goes, when the evil on earth becomes intolerable, Lord Vishnu gets incarnated into special avatars to destroy the bad. There are 10 such avatar stories (Dashavatara) and seven of these are now inscribed in stone at the Rani ki Vav Gujarat. Let’s see how many of these you can spot using these clues –
- Balaram – A deity on the southern wall with four hands of which one holds a plough. You will find a three-headed snake over his head. Balaram was the older brother of Lord Krishna. He was in fact a manifestation of the Sheshnaga (hooded cobra) – associated with Lord Vishnu
- Parashurama – He too has four hands of which one holds his weapon of choice – axe. He is considered to be the Brahmin warrior who fought several Kshatriyas and kings to restore order to the universe
- Buddha – Several Vaishnav texts list Buddhas as an avatar of Lord Vishnu. On the southern wall of Rani ki Vav, he is depicted with four hands – one of which holds a rosary and another holds a lotus bud. He is dressed like an ascetic and has ear lobes till his shoulders (a trait described in the 32 traits of a great man).
- Kalki – An avatar yet to be born, Kalki is shown as a deity on a horseback. He is depicted wearing gum boots (like the Sun God in Modhera) and has one attendant holding an umbrella over his head. Another one seems to be serving him.
- Vaman – the dwarf who tricked and trapped King Mahabali for eternity. He is shown as a squat man with two hands – one with a rosary and the other holding an umbrella.
- Varaha – The boar who saved Mother earth. This one should be fairly easy to spot on the northern wall. Additional clue, he is holding a conch shell in one of his hands
- Rama – A very unusual depiction of Lord Rama. This one has four hands of which one holds his favorite bow and the other three hold an arrow, sword & a shield
It is possible that the remaining three – Kurma, Narasimha and Matsya were also, a part of this theme and belonged to the bare niches.
Mahishasura Mardini on the walls of the Queen’s stepwell in Patan
Strength with beauty is what this form of Goddess Durga depicts on the Patan stepwell walls. She is depicted in her fierce avatar (called Mahishasura Mardini) killing the evil demon Mahisasura. Her 20 hands are shown carrying various weapons including a sword, a spear, a vajra (thunderbolt), a chakra (discus), kettle drum, mace, trident and a lotus. She is seen holding the demon by the hair while piercing him with a trishul (trident). At the same time, she is stepping on a buffalo and attacking it from the rear. It is definitely one of the most breathtaking sculptures of the Patan Rani Ki Vav and easily be spotted on the south wall.
Bhairava is the fearful form of Lord Shiva. Here at Rani ni Vav, you can spot him with 10 pairs of hands. You will find him holding a noose, dagger, vajra, damru (drum), tail of a cobra, a bowl with a fish and a decapitated head. His pet dog is close to the head, attempting to lick the flesh.
Apsaras (Nymphs) & Dikpalas (guardians of directions)
Most of the deity panels are flanked by gorgeous apsaras in various poses. Look closely at each one of them and you will be amazed with the kind of details that the artists of yesteryears have included on stone. Where one is looking into the mirror and applying lipstick, another one is stretching after a nap. There is one where the apsara has just had a bath and is stung by a scorpion hidden in her towel. I even spotted a damsel wearing fancy chappals (footwear). The details and expressions on these Apsara panels will leave you awestruck at the craftsmanship.
The corner panels generally have sculptures of the guardians of directions – called dikpalas. These are generally 8 different Gods and include Indra (God of heaven), Agni (God of fire), Vayu (God of wind), Kubera (Lord of wealth) and Varuna (Lord of the sea).
Nagakanyas or Vish Kanyas
As documented in the Arthashastra written by the legendary Chanakya, Nagakanyas or Vish Kanyas were poison maidens used as assassins by the kings. From a young age, these women were raised on a diet of poison. They were so lethal that any contact with their body fluids would mean instant death. Beautiful and dangerous, several of these Naga kanyas are carved at this Queen’s stepwell in Patan. These women can easily be spotted with their nude bodies covered by serpents.
The Trimurti along with Lord Ganesha and Kubera
On the west pavilion, look out for panels with the three creators of the universe – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu ad Lord Shiva. They are carved with their consorts. You will also find Lord Ganesha with his wives – Riddhi and Siddhi as well as the pot-bellied Lord of wealth – Kubera with his consort. Around these panels are some carvings of Gauri (Parvati) in various poses.
Lord Vishnu in the three worlds
At the far end of the Rani Ki Vav stepwell, you must look out for this sculpture of Lord Vishnu sleeping on his bed of Sheshnag. The same sculpture can be seen at two other levels of the well. These symbolize the presence of Lord Vishnu in the three worlds – Swarg (heaven), Paatal (Hell) and Bhoomi (Earth). To spot these, you will have to look towards the draw well part of Rani ki Vav. Depending on the water levels in the well, one can see all three of them.
Closer to levels three and four, you will see beautiful geometric patterns. These patterns served as an inspiration for the famous GI-tagged Patola sarees that are woven in Patan.
There are tons of other interesting carved images inside Rani Ki Vav. Somewhere among them, there is one of the stepwell’s creator herself – Rani Udaymati. There are lots of carvings along the inner surface of the draw well too – which currently is inaccessible. You can only see a glimpse of same when you walk all the way to the other end of the stepwell.
One can really get lost in this carved realm. It is this aesthetic aspect of the heritage site that can take up most of your time at Rani Ki Vav. Trust me when I say that I have just given you a teaser with these details. It is time to shake you out of your reverie and let you discover more for yourself. Let’s get down to the practical aspects of this travel guide to Rani ki Vav Patan.
Common FAQs about Rani Ki Vav Patan
Where is Rani Ki Vav located?
Rani Ki Vav is located in a town called Patan, which is around 128 km from Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
How to reach Rani ki Vav?
Here are the best ways to reach Rani Ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat.
Patan does not have an airport of their own. The closest airport would be the Ahmedabad international airport, which is around 128 km from Modhera. The airport has a very good connectivity – both in terms of domestic as well as international flights. Once you land in Ahmedabad, you can get to Patan either by road or rail.
Mehsana is the closest railway station. It is approximately 55 km from Rani Ki Vav. You can get off here and hire one of the local cabs or board the regular public buses to get to the Queen’s stepwell in Patan.
This is by far the most convenient. There are excellent roads to Patan from Ahmedabad and other major cities of Gujarat. You can either hire a car or get one of the many public buses to Patan. GSRTC (Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation) has regular departures from Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar to Patan.
How much are the Rani Ki Vav entry fees?
For Indians and citizens of SAARC nations, the entrance fees is just INR 40 while foreign nationals, it would be INR 600. There are no separate charges for photography.
What are the Rani Ki Vav Patan timings?
Rani Ki Vav is open from 8 am to 7 pm every day.
Which is the best time to visit Rani Ki Vav in Patan?
In terms of the season, it is best to plan a visit between October to February, when the weather is slightly cooler. Summers are quite extreme here, with the temperatures crossing 45 degrees.
I highly recommend visiting the place either early in the morning or post noon. The time is perfect for photographers too.
Is Rani Ki Vav a UNESCO world heritage site?
Yes, Rani Ki Vav was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014.
On which currency note, can you find the Rani ki Vav image?
You will find the image of Rani Ki Vav on the lavender colored 100 Rupees currency note.
Which are the other places to visit near Rani Ki Vav Patan?
Besides Rani Ki Vav, you can visit the following places in Patan –
– Patola weaving center – You can witness what goes into the weaving of one of the most expensive fabrics of India. At the Patan Patola center, you can also buy the fabric at reasonable prices. The weaving center is just a few meters from Rani Ki Vav
– Sahastra Linga Talav – This is just behind Rani ki Vav. This is another Solanki structure and precedes the stepwell in terms of the date of construction and is preserved by ASI
– Panchasara Jain Temple – Located in Patan town are the Panchasara Jain temple. The temple is worth a see owing to its lovely architecture and serene ambiance.
A visit to Patan’s Rani Ki Vav is best combined with a trip to these nearby towns and monuments.
– Modhera Sun Temple – The town is around 30 km from Patan and is another engineering marvel belonging to the Solanki era.
– Vadhnagar – Erstwhile home of PM Narendra Modi, this tiny town is home to exquisitely carved Kirti torans as well as the beautiful and ancient Hatkeshwar Mandir. This is around 60 km from Patan
– Siddhpur – Around 30 km from Patan, here you can visit the extravagant Havelis of Dawoodi Bohras. It is also, famous for Bindu Sarovar (a lake mentioned in Rig Vedas) and the ruins of Rudra Mahalaya temple. There are a few more interesting attractions in this town.
Which is the best place to stay near Rani Ki Vav?
There is a limited choice of hotels in Patan. Instead, one can book an Ahmedabad hotel and travel to Patan as a day trip. Ahmedabad has tons of options – from uber-luxury hotels to budget stays. The booking resources section below has links to help you book your hotel online.
Can you do a day trip from Ahmedabad to Rani Ki Vav?
Yes, you can do a day trip to Rani Ki Vav from Ahmedabad. In fact, it is recommended that you combine it with a trip to the Modhera Sun Temple and either Vadnagar or Sidhpur.
Photography and Travel Tips
- Carry a wide lens as well as a zoom lens to capture the stepwell in Patan. Tripods are not allowed on the premises
- You can hire a designated guide for Rani Ki Vav at the ticketing counter. In fact, it is highly advisable to do so given the details of the monument.
- Toilets and drinking water is available near the Rani Ki Vav stepwell in Patan. You will also, find small grocery shops and tea stalls around the place.
Before you go, pin this
- Booking.com has several good Ahmedabad hotels listed on their site. You could use this link to browse and book the same.
- If you prefer Agoda.com as a platform to book your hotels in Ahmedabad, then you can use this link to get to the site and pick one.
- Viator.com offers several tours in and around Ahmedabad. You will even find a guided tour of Modhera and Patan from Ahmedabad on the site. Use the link to discover more and book one for yourself.
- Klook.com has various local tours and car bookings available that you can use to book your trip to Modhera . In fact, you can book a complete trip from Ahmedabad to Modhera and Patan using the link given.
- For any of your travel needs or general shopping, consider using Amazon through this link.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings. I have recently published my first book – When Places Come Alive – a collection of stories that are based on legends, landscapes, art and culture of a place which is available in both ebook and paperback format.
16 thoughts on “Rani Ki Vav Patan (The Queen’s Stepwell) – A tribute for him, from her”
How fascinating to see an inverted temple going deep into the ground. The Rani Ki Vav Patan looks like a great spot to see a stepwell structure. I can understand why it is referred to as the Queen of Stepwells. And why this stepwell was designated as a UNESCO site. With all of the intricate carving on the walls, I can see why it took over 20 years to finish. So many fascinating figures on the walls. One wonders what was lost on the upper levels that have been lost over time. Definitely something to consider if we plan a visit to Ahmedabad. And we would absolutely get a guide!
You are bound to love it – Linda. It is definitely one of its kind.
Thanks for a very educational post as I learned so much about vavs and stepwells — also about the many intricately carved deities. I think that in all cultures, water is considered a symbol of life, so it totally makes sense that in an arid place like this, beautiful stepwells would be created to show how sacred and valuable the water is. Also cool is that this stepwell was created by a queen for a king. I found myself wondering if this area ever experienced flash floods and if the stepwells became dangerous places to be if the river was rising quickly.
The river has long changed its course and now the area is quite arid. In fact, the place was buried under the silt for a long long time. Either way, from the looks of it, the mechanics of this stepwell ensured that it was always safe.
I am blown away by the architecture here! I have never seen anything like it or heard about its history. The design is so unusual too, with the stairwells and pillars. I could really picture myself here through your words and photos. The story of the Queen building this for the King is so romantic and very girl power too, I love it!
Thanks Lisa. I am still so stunned with what I have seen. I would love to go back again!
I am stunned by the beauty of these intricate carvings that decorate the Rani Ki Vav Gujarat! It’s incredible to think that there are over 1,000 deities represented, each with their own stories and depictions. It’s even more incredible that they were hidden underground for all those years. I can almost imagine weary travelers on the silk route and others gathering within the depression to escape from the heat and catch up on the local gossip. No wonder this is a World UNESCO site. I would love to step into this mesmerizing space!
Imagine you find something so amazing in your own backyard, buried for years. What a delight. I felt that when I saw it for the first time
The stepwells of Rani Ki Vav Gujarat looks amazing. I guess one can spend a day or so marvelling at the statues of the numerious gods and goddesses. I love spending time in places like that, armed with a good history book, and reading up on all the stories behind it. Also I love learning about the different gods and their stories on site rather than just from a book. Thanks for this inspiring post!
Am so glad that you enjoyed this post. I hope you get to visit this site soon
Oh wow, the history of how stepwells have evolved in Gujarat and become so intricate is fascinating. It’s incredible how much you can learn about a population and culture simply through their architecture and the stories it tells. I could get lost exploring and probably spend days trying to see every elaborate detail of Rani Ki Vav.
Believe me, I left so much unseen. I need to get back there.
Wow Rani ni Vav looks incredible. I feel like I should have heard of stepwells–especially having spent this summer in India! Love that it was created by the queen–girl power!!! The architecture and level of detail is truly impressive.
Yay to Girl Power indeed. I hope you can get back to India and see these lovely sites.
What a beautiful city. Gujarat fascinates me. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Rani Ki Vav Patan looks amazing. I wonder how long did it take to build it. The King must be worth it that she built the underground temple for him.
The King did do a lot of amazing things during his rule. So yes,I think he deserved this tribute.