“Stepwells in India are structures sunken into the earth with stairways that spiral or zigzag down into the cool, dark depths where a pool of water lies (sometimes as far as nine stories down!) Once an important part of daily life in India, they have been replaced by modern wells or reservoirs and a tap system. Walls, vegetation and neighbouring buildings now hide these magnificent stepwells.”
(photo courtesy Merrell Publishers)
In the past, apart from being the local source for clean drinking water, the stepwells served as communal centers and meeting spaces for people from different villages when they came to get water. The cultural heritage and historical significance of the stepwell is very important for communities today, particularly the younger generation from the surrounding villages. Many stepwells in India have now fallen into disrepair. If these stepwells were to be repaired and restored, thousands of local villagers will have easy access to potable water and water for cultivation of their crops. The use of these stepwells by the villagers as communal meeting spaces can also get revived and in addition they can become significant places of heritage tourism.
The Heritage of Step wells
From the 5th to the 19th centuries, people in India built stone cisterns to collect the water of the monsoon rains and keep it accessible for the remaining dry months of the year. These magnificent stone cisterns, also known as stepwells, are much more than utilitarian reservoirs and have been an integral part of Indian cultural heritage for centuries. These stepwells tell us much about the region's ecology and history. Stepwells were sites for drinking, washing and bathing, as well as for festivals and sacred rituals.They have also been a promising source of water for irrigating crops and watering forests in arid regions.
Traditionally, the stepwells or Bawaries (a local name) were the best places for long distance travelers on foot or camels to quench their thirst and rest for a while. At one time they were prominent places for social gatherings on specific festive occasions like Gangaur, Dashehara, Deewali and to perform religious rituals for births, weddings, death etc.
Art became an important part of stepwells. Where stepwells survive, their walls, cornices, pilasters, pillars, niches decorated with sculptures by medieval architects still attract visitors today.
The Flow Partnership is collaborating with GBS of RAJASTHAN (registered charity, founded in 1984 and which has special consultative status with UN ECOSOC and have successfully restored six stepwells in the past) in restoring these ancient heritage stepwells.
Together, we are embarking on a project to restore six such ruined stepwells, starting with the restoration of SEVADAS KI BAWARI stepwell located in village Kharkhara in district Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. When restored, the Sevadas Ki Bawari stepwell will provide ample water for all the needs of over 4000 villagers of the area. Sevadas Ki Bawari stepwell was built by a local saint of the village, Saint Sevadas, approximately a thousand years ago. This three-storied stepwell, though in ruins today, has a hidden glorious history and splendour. It used to be full of water that was sufficient for the needs of the local village communities for the whole year. There were artistic paintings on the walls, galleries, ceilings, arches and gates, which would attract visitors and locals alike. All of them have are now damaged but they can be restored to their previous glory. Craftsmen to work on these structures are still alive who possess and remember the skills needed for restoration..
Funds Required for the restoration of Sevadas Stepwell : £60,000
Should you be interested in knowing more and supporting the restoration of this magnificent structure, please contact us or "Donate".