One of the earliest stepwells or vavs of Gujarat is the 11th century Mata Bhavani ni vav located at Asarva in Ahmedabad. This east-facing vav was built by the Solankis and renovated by the Vaghelas in the 14th century before being confiscated by the Gujarat Sultanate.
Interestingly, this vav is one of the longest along the east – west axis with the typical kutas and ardhakutas. The steepness of the flight of steps going down to the well shaft is countered by the covered pavilions in every level that provide the much-needed relief. The stairwell breaks into smaller series of steps that go around the main square pool of water that leads to the reservoir.
The entrance to the vav has a ruined elephant on either side and is generally plain though the pavilions are decorated with the traditional lions, repetitive elements and gods and goddesses. As is in the case of all vavs, there is a shrine dedicated to Mata Bhavani Devi who is revered by the residential community that plays a pivotal role in maintaining the sanctity of this centuries-old structure.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian