May 29, 2017

3071 INDIA (Gujarat) - Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat (UNESCO WHS)

Located in the town of Patan in Gujarat, on the banks of Saraswati River, Rani-ki-vav (Queen's step well) is an intricately constructed stepwell built as a memorial to an 11th century AD king Bhimdev I. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, consisting in ponds in which the water is reached by descending a set of steps, and have been constructed since the third millennium BC. The construction of stepwells is mainly utilitarian, though they may include embellishments of architectural significance.

It is generally assumed that it was built in the memory of Bhima I (r. c. 1022-1064) by his widowed queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karna after his death. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s. This magnificent east-facing step well, designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, measures approximately 64 m long, 20 m wide & 27 m deep. A stepped corridor compartmented at regular intervals pillared multistory pavilions is a unique feature.

Rani-ki-Vav impresses not only with its architectural structure and technological achievements in water sourcing and structural stability, but also in particular with its sculptural decoration, of true artistic mastery. The figurative motifs and sculptures, and the proportion of filled and empty spaces, provide the stepwell’s interior with its unique aesthetic character. The setting enhances these attributes in the way in which the well descends suddenly from a plain plateau, which strengthens the perception of this space.

The steps begin at ground level, leading you down through the cool air through several pillared pavilions to reach the deep well below. There are more than 800 sculptures among seven galleries. Most of the sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu, in the forms of Dus-Avatars Kalki, Rama, Krishna, Narsinh, Vaman, Varahi and others representing their return to the world. There is also a small gate below the last step of the step well, with a 30 km tunnel, currently blocked by stones and mud) which leads to the town of Sidhpur near Patan. It was used as an escape gateway for the king, who built the step well in the times of defeat.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series Surya Namaskar, about which I wrote here.

The second stamp, Engineers India, designed by Brahm Prakash, was issued on March 27, 2015.

The last stamp, depicting B R Ambedkar, is part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, about which I wrote here.

Rani Ki Vav - Wikipedia
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat - UNESCO OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Sender: Akhil Kumar (direct swap)
Sent from Sevaganapalli (Tamil Nadu / India), on 04.05.2017
Photo: Bernard Gagnon

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