Rani-ni-Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell), on the banks of the Saraswati River in Patan, Gujarat, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of an underground water resource and storage system on the Indian subcontinent.
The 'Vav' was built during the reign of Rani Udaymati of the Solanki Dynasty, probably as a memorial for her husband Bhimdeva I (1022-1063 AD). It is about 134 kilometres northwest of Ahmedabad, and about 57 kilometres from Mehsana.
Designed as an inverted temple, highlighting the sacredness of water, it is a single water management system divided into seven levels of stairs. More than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones depict religious, mythological and secular imagery, which often refers to literary works.
The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 metre in diameter and 30 metre deep.
Rani-ni-Vav stands as agood example of the stepwell tradition. But, after the flooding and disappearance of the Saraswati River due to geotectonic changes, the property was buried under layers of silt for almost seven centuries, until the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) came in to preserve it.
In terms of esemblance, the property does not seem to have experienced major loss since its flooding and silting in the 13th century. However, Patan, like many Indian urban centres, is experiencing rapid urban growth and the western expansion of the city towards Rani-ni-Vav needs to be carefully controlled in order to protect the integrity of the property for the future.
Around the outer terrace at ground level, slopes of smooth descent were created to prevent soil erosion following heavy rain falls. Unfortunately, the Rani-ni-Vav cannot retain its authenticity in function as a result of the altered ground water levels following the relocation of Saraswati River.
It was added to the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites on 22nd June 2014.The property is protected as a national monument by the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Act of 1958 amended by its revision of 2010 and accordingly administrated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).