Even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget proposing development of Rani ki Vav (stepwell) in north Gujarat’s Patan district as global heritage site, among nine other historic Indian sites, has found favour with historians, many believe that attention should also be given to the adjoining Sahastralinga Talav located near Rani ki Vav stepwell.
The stepwell at Patan, the medieval capital of Gujarat, found a place in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 2014. The stepwell was built in the last decades of the 11th century AD by Queen Udaymati in the memory of her husband Bhimadeva I , a ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. Measuring more than 65 metres in length, it is among the largest in Gujarat and has 500 sculptures as a unique feature.
Y S Rawat, director of state department of archaeology, said, “While it is great that the government wants to do something more for Rani ki Vav and has come up with the provision in the Budget, I also feel they should do something more for conserving Patan heritage as a whole.
While the Rani ki Vav is currently well-maintained, it would do well for the government to give much more attention to the Sahastralinga Talav which is adjacent to the stepwell so that the whole precinct is preserved well.”
The Sahastralinga Talav (Tank), a huge reservoir having little temples containing 1,000 lingas placed on the banks of Saraswati river, was among the many artificial tanks built in parts of Gujarat by Siddhraj Jaisinh, who ruled from 1093-1143 and around 1,000 shivalings (shrines) were found on the edge of the tank.
Kirit Mankodi, a Mumbai-based professor of archaeology and the author of The Queen’s Stepwell at Patan, has also authored the Archaeological Survey of India’s guide on the monument which is available at the site, said, “Some of the much needed recommendations include that good guides should be made available at the site and the government should ensure that the monument is made more accessible.
Currently, a visitor can only view the stepwell till the third stage as the reservoir part is barricaded. It should be opened up and made more accessible to tourists who flock to the site from world over. There is also an ASI open-air museum behind the stepwell from where around 2 sculptures were stolen 10 years back weighing around 600 kgs. There has been no efforts to trace them back and even the museum should be opened up for visitors and maintained well.”
Mankodi also bats for a new affordable book for visitors at the site and a website dedicated exclusively for the monument. He said, “A website with good photographs and content that can be a ready reckoner for tourists regarding the monument should be prepared which will have authoritative content on the mythology present at the Vav. They can also create a tourist circuit by joining it with the nearby Sahastralinga Talav nearby and also link it to the Modhera Sun Temple which are related monuments. A small miniature of the monument can be made as a permanent exhibit at the site so that senior citizens who may not be able to climb all 100 steps at the well can explore the monument as well.”
Even as India has 25 cultural world heritage sites, Jaitley in the Union Budget outlined 9 heritage sites where work will be started on restoration , landscape restoration, signage and interpretation centres, parking, access for the differently-abled and visitors amenities.