Believed to be one of the five tattva (elements) from which all life is derived, water has been revered in the Indian sub-continent since times immemorial. Not only has it served as an indispensable part of religious rituals but it has also been axiomatic in shaping the settlement patterns, customs, and traditions of the people. Among the various types of water structures found throughout India, stepwells are an indigenous and divergent phenomenon found extensively in regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and North-Western India. These subterranean structures were built into the earth to harness groundwater in areas with scarcity. They are accessible through a series of steps and ornate corridors which adapted their design in accordance with the era and patronage and can vary from simple to distinct; often displaying unusual geometric complexity and adroit craftsmanship in their peculiar mix of motifs and influence of Jain, Hindu, and Islamic architecture. 

The Stepwells of Ahmedabad exhibit is a collective initiative of a group of architects from Ahmedabad to highlight the historical, architectural response to the age-old problem of providing drinking water while touching upon the tangential social, ecological, and cultural aspects of stepwells. Set within the framework of a non-Western context and an unforgiving, arid climate, it presents extensive data on structure, size and construction of the stepwells built in and around Ahmedabad. The culmination of two years of research has been laid out in the form of architectural drawings, diagrams, and comparative analysis alongside photographs of the splendour and decay. Additionally, Dr. Purnima Mehta-Bhatt will be conducting a gallery talk as a part of this exhibition which will explicate the unique relationship between women, water, and the architecture of stepwells in Gujarat, India.

Exhibition Credits:

  • Curation Team: Priyanka Sheth, Tanvi Jain, Riyaz Tayyibji
  • Research: Priyanka Sheth
  • Analytical & Measure Drawings: Aashini Sheth, Rony Payuva, Priyanka Sheth, Neel Jain
  • Illustrations: Tanvi Jain
  • Exhibition Design: Priyanka Sheth, Tanvi Jain, Malay Doshi, Neel Jain 
  • Photography: Malay Doshi, Karan Gajjar
  • Creative Direction & Promotions: Vineet Kaul 
  • Text: Vineet Kaul