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Vavs Of Gujarat

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Everybody needs water. In a land that gets very hot in summer, and with rivers and lakes far away, a well is an important source of water. But what if a well is designed to do much more than just provide for water? For instance, if they provide a tired traveller a cool comfortable resting place? Or if they are unique pieces of architecture with exquisite art work? Such wells were indeed constructed some 600 years ago in the hot and dusty (semi-desert) regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Called as Vav in Gujarathi, these wells were such a perfect answer to the water needs of people that rulers and their kinsmen considered constructing them as a pious deed.

These wells were used for centuries, until modern alternatives made them redundant. But many vavs have withstood the test of time. While their waters are no more used, their structure, grandeur and rich sculptures can still be seen and appreciated.

A typical well has an entrance at the ground level. In most cases, a flight of stairs leading down is all you notice at the entrance. Only when you enter the structure, do you notice, one flight of steps leading to another and another and another and so on (usually five to seven storeys) until you finally approach the water. You can consider these as stepped corridors which are constructed using supporting pillars and lintels. The side walls and lintels and also the pillars are richly sculptured in most cases.

Surely, demonstrating workmanship by building such intricate and extensive structures could not be the sole objective of those people! To discover the utility of these structures, all you need to do is to step inside a vav. As you climb down, you become aware of the cool insides. Protected from the heat of the harsh sun, the evaporation rate of water is also reduced. The long corridors also keep away the dust from the water.

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