Well of meanings: an insight into the stepwells of Gujarat
Stepwells of Western India were often regarded as magnificent architectural solutions to the seasonality of water supply in the region. But as this multimedia presentation will show, the stepwells were much more than architectural wonders. They are laden with a whole range of meanings which derive from historical myths, meanings, beliefs and practices of the people of the region in which they were built. The presence of water in a stepwell made them the active focal point in villages. There was a time when these stepwell were used by the people for satisfying different requirements. This made the presence of the stepwell inevitable in their lives. However, because of the changes in climatic conditions, almost all of the stepwells are now dry, creating a distance between the stepwell and the user as the real purpose of stepwells is being lost. The stepwells are losing their original contexts with their real purpose and hence their importance in lives of people. The Stepwells of Gujarat are becoming important subject of public attention in recently. Their importance as site of water management is being complimented by appreciating their potential as attractive sites for cultural tourism in Gujarat. Stepwells are unique feature of Gujarat. Their distinctive style of architecture and ornamentation takes us to a new world of discoveries. At the same time, the multitude presence of the stepwells in the western part of the country opens the door of knowing their larger social and cultural contexts. The focus of the project is to study the stepwell of Adalaj to understand larger social, historical and cultural context and then make sense of the multiple cultural meanings attached to these wells in Gujarat. Since the Adalaj stepwell does not stand in isolation but there exist a number of other stepwells in this region. Hence, through this thesis, an effort has been made to build up the connection of the local context of the stepwell with regional.