Step-wells are deep wells where water is reached by descending a set of steps.
Due to long dry summer and very little rain, water levels drop in regions like Rajasthan & Gujurat.
Step-wells over the centuries evolved to reach extremely low water levels and for other water-related requirements. Due to their architecture, they even acted as ancient air conditioners.
These might have started as water reservoirs but with time these step-wells became sanctuaries for praying, daily rituals, and a place for community get-togethers.
They are a perfect example of irrigation and water storage systems developed in India to cope with fluctuating water levels.
Here is a list of the ones I have been to.
1. Rani Ki Vav – Gujurat
This 11th-century Stepwell is the latest addition to the UNESCO world heritage sites list. This Queen’s Stepwell is definitely Queen of all step wells in the world.
This 7 level stepwell is an example of Ancient India’s finest design and architecture.
It is built on the bank of river Saraswati and situated in Patan in Gujarat.
Since the Saraswati river has completely dried up now, there is no water in the Vaav during most months except monsoon.
2. Chand Bawdi – Rajasthan
Chand Bawdi (Bawdi means stepwell in local language) is 1000 years old stepwell in Abhaneri village 100 km from Jaipur.
It has around 3500 narrow steps and was once a main source of water to the nearby villages.
This Bawdi is 100 feet deep and is one of India’s largest and deepest step-wells.
On one side of the bawdi is an enclosed courtyard where people can sit and enjoy the views while the other three sides have narrow steps arranged in perfect symmetry to reach to water level.
A beautiful temple of Harsha Matta is just a few feet away from the stepwell which was destroyed by Momamadh Gazhnavi and in ruins now.
This step-well has even featured in movies like Bhool Bhulaya, Paheli, and also in Hollywood movies, The Dark Knight rises & The fall.
Tip – If you are in Jaipur, then you can visit Chand Bawdi and Bhangard fort in a day trip.
3. Hampi Pushkaranis – Karnataka
Built during the glorious Vijayanagar Empire, Hampi step-wells (Pushkaranis ) are sacred water tanks attached to the main temples.
These Pushkaranis were used to perform temple related rituals and hence are treated with respect even today.
4. Adalaj Stepwell – Gujurat
This five-story deep Stepwell was built by Queen Rudadevi in memory of her late husband in 1498.
Due to the severe water scarcity in this region, Rana Veer Singh started the construction of this vav. Unfortunately, he was killed in a war against Muslim king Mahmud Begada.
Begada later proposed marriage to Veer Singh’s widow. She agreed on a condition that the construction of this Vav should be completed before the marriage. She wanted to serve her people and respect her husband’s last wish.
Mahmud Begada kept his promise and completed the vav. Legends say that when the vav was ready, the queen jumped in the well and killed herself.
You can clearly see a glimpse of Hindu as well as Muslim architecture.
The vav has 3 entrances and temperature at the center is 5-6 degrees lower than the outside temperature.
Tip – If you are visiting Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar, please add it to your itinerary.
5. Modhera StepWell – Gujurat
As part of Modera sun temple, this Stepwell (Kunda) which has 108 small and medium-sized temples on all 4 sides. In earlier times it was used to take a dip before entering the temple.
One side of the Kunda gives direct entry to the temple. Kunda is home to many turtles now. One of the main temples here is of Sitladevi Mata temple (Goddess to cure smallpox )
6. Toorji ka Jalra – Rajasthan
Beautiful step-well in the heart of Jodhpur city was built in the 18th century by the Queen of Mewad. This step-well is carved of Jodhpur’s famous rose-red stone and is 200 feet deep.
Till recently it was covered in debris and has been cleaned and is maintained well now.
Tip – If you are visiting Jodhpur, please add this to your list. It is in the main market and easily accessible from most tourist spots.
If you’re looking for peace and are happy with just basic facilities then Kasol is for you.
Top things to do in Kasol
Walk till Manikaran
Manikaran is a pilgrimage center for Sikhs and Hindus situated 5 km from Kasol. The main attractions are the Gurudwara, Shiv temple, and hot water springs which give it a very mystic feel.
You can walk to Manikaran along the Parvati river and spend a few hours there.
Take bath in the hot water springs which are considered to have medicinal benefits.
Enjoy the humble but extremely satisfying food at Langar(Community Kitchen) which is open for people across all the faiths. Langer food is cooked in the hot water springs.
Take a nap in the hot caves which will surely take away all the weariness.
Explore Chalal Village
We tried the Chalal trail twice, the first was from the Kasol market and I was deeply disappointed by the litter all along the way and decided to skip it halfway.
On the second occasion just 3kms before Kasol we saw a small bridge on the Parvati river connecting to Chalal Village.
Post crossing the bridge we kept walking towards Chalal for an hour. Thankfully, we got some beautiful and clean trails running parallel to the Parvati River.
We didn’t see a single soul for the first 30 minutes except for a friendly dog who accompanied us till the end. It was towards the end of the trail which was infested with irresponsible tourists who were the main reason for the litter and mess.
When you’re done with all the walking and exploration, sit back relax and enjoy some delicious food Kasol has to offer.
Moon Dance Cafe– Looking at how crowded it was this seemed to be the most preferred choice for all tourists in Kasol. We tried sizzlers which were perfect for the cold weather.
German Bakery– Cakes Muffins Cookies – everything we tried was amazing. We even got some packed for our bus journey.
Jim Morrison Cafe– Named after one of the most eccentric frontmen of all time, the cafe lived up to the name. The uphill walk to the cafe makes it all the more interesting. We tried Pizza, some pancakes, and endless cups of Ginger and Mint tea. Post dinner, the descend got really adventurous and spooky thanks to the rains and no lights on the way. Please do carry a torch if you’re going to stay late for dinner.
Evergreen Cafe– This is claimed to be the oldest cafe in Kasol. Lovely music and laid back vibe. If you are in no hurry you should definitely try it for one of your meals. We tried a few Israeli dishes which turned out to be quite appetizing.
Shamboo Momos – Who doesn’t like momos in the mountains? – Not to miss this small cart right opposite German Bakery.
Sanjha Chulha – Not at all pocket-friendly but this is the only place that serves authentic Himachali food. It is 6 km from Kasol. Since we were staying there we picked it for dinner. We had started getting tired of all the continental affair and needed my fill of local rustic food. Sadly there is not a single restaurant in Kasol Market which serves local food. Service here is slow as they claim to cook everything fresh. They even have Dham Thalis & Siddu. A good collection of pickle varieties. Basic comforting and everything we ordered turned out to be succulent. This was my best meal in Kasol 🙂
Chandigarh -> Bhuntar (8hours by Bus) -> Kasol (1-2 hours by Bus \ Cab)
Jodhpur is also known as blue or sun city, It is the second-largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Named after King Rao Jodha it was historically capital of the Marwar kingdom.
Jodhpur is geographically located in the center of Rajasthan and can be easily reached in a couple of hours from Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Ajmer, Shekhawati & Jaipur.
Here is the list of places we visited in Jodhpur during our two days stay in Oct-19.
Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in the world and is visited by tourists all across the globe.
Built-in 15th century by Maharaja Rao Jodha this fortress has thick walls and large courtyards. It has a total of seven gates built by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate his victories over Jaipur, Udaipur, and Bikaner.
Built on a hilltop known as Bhakurcheeria (mountain of birds), you can see hundreds of eagles flocking it.
Fort houses museums, craft markets, cannons, armor collection, temples, gardens, and restaurants.
You will need a minimum of 3 hours to explore this fort. It has also featured in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises.
Jaswant Thada is one km from Mehrangarh Fort. It is a cenotaph built-in memory of Raja Jaswant Singh and serves as the cremation ground for the Royal Family of Mawar.
It is built of pure white marble and has intricate designs all over the walls and ceiling. It even has a well-maintained garden where you can sit and relax for some time.
Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is within walking distance from Fort. It was created in 2006 to restore the natural ecology of rocky wasteland around Mehrangarh Fort.
We visited it around sunset, post climbing a hillock in the park you can click magnificent shots of Mehrangarh fort.
It isn’t a normal park as you have to walk through rocky patches and climb really steep parts and even tickets are a bit expensive. If you have some time then try visiting it around sunrise or just before sunset.
Post 20 min drive from Rao Jodha park we reached Mandore gardens. Mandore is an ancient town and was the capital of Marwar before it was abandoned in the 15th-century.
These gardens are huge and have many centuries-old temples that tell you stories of the glorious past of Marwar. Sadly by the time, we reached it was a bit dark. This place needs to be explored around 5 pm or early morning to enjoy the best views. If you are visiting Jodhpur please don’t miss it.
Janta Sweets Foodcourt
After a long and tiring day, we decided to have our dinner in Janta Sweets Foodcourt.
We had Onion Kachodi, Rainbow Kulfi, Cheese Sandwich, and polish it down with loads of Chaas (buttermilk).
And then packed some Gevar packed to take back home.
It was our last day in Jodhpur as we had to catch a train to Mumbai at around 7 pm. We decided to start a bit late, packed our bags had breakfast at homestay. Post requesting them to keep our luggage at their reception we booked Uber till Clock Market.
Toorji Ka Jalra
A well-kept step-well in the heart of the city. Every corner of this step-well is Insta worthy and you should definitely spend some time here.
Shahi Samosa & Mirchi Vada
This place serves the best samosas in India, You should definitely try their Samosa and Mirchi Vada
Umaid Bhavan Palace
Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of the world’s largest private residences. This palace has 347 rooms and a major part of it is converted into a Hotel. A small section of the palace is converted into a museum which is open to tourists. The royal family still lives in a section of this palace. It was even awarded the world’s best hotel at the Traveller’s Choice Award organized by TripAdvisor. International celebrities Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s tied knot here.
Why Jodhpur is called Blue City?
Since the weather here remains hot all year and blue reflects heat so people have painted their house to keep them cool.
When the fort was built most of the Bhramins painted their houses blue to identify themselves as Blue color is associated with Lord Shiva.
Limestone and Copper are available in abundance near Jodhpur, so these must have been the cheapest and easily available options to paint houses blue.
Some interesting Graffiti on the walls
Stick to easy peasy cotton wear and comfortable shoes as you have to walk a lot and climb to Mehrangarh Fort is steep.
Plan your visit during winter months ( Nov-Feb) and avoid peak summers.
Wear a cap and sunglasses as it gets very hot during peak hours.
We visited Mehrangarh fort during the first half of the day, I think if you want better photos you should visit post-lunch and stay till sunset to capture some amazing shots.
Don’t forget to hire a guide or opt for the audio guide with headphones while purchasing your tickets to Mehrangarh Fort
Monuments hold deeper meaning when you know about their past too.
I am not a fan of shopping while I am traveling but you can definitely buy some bangles, Colorful dupattas, silver jewelry, and famous jodhpuris.
Carry a water bottle, you can get it re-filled at many places
All the tourist places in Jodhpur have very good facilities, definitely the best I have seen in India.
I preferred uber for traveling within Jodhpur, it worked perfectly for us family of 4.
Uber is definitely a cheaper option, you don’t have to bargain with cab and auto drivers – trust me saves a lot of time and patience.
You can spend as much time as you want at any place rather than dealing with drivers who start rushing things.
This Hill Fort is one of the most significant forts in Maharashtra and testimony of many significant events.
Located in Sahyadris mountain range Raigad, which was once capital of Marathas led by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and center of Maratha Kingdom.
Built on a hill 820 meters above sea level you need to climb ~ 1700+ stairs to reach to the top if you are an adventure enthusiast.
For rest, the easier way is rope-way from the base which takes you to the top of the fort in 5 minutes.
The fort is in complete ruins, but the stories of Maratha valor are ingrained in every part of this Fort.
The Fort is huge and it can easily take 2-3 hours to explore all the parts of this magnanimous part of an era gone by.
Shivaji Maharaj observed that mountain of “Rairi” was the best place, steep on all sides and tallest of all, the whole mountain being a seamless rock and almost impregnable .“This Fort is formidable. All sides appear as if chiseled from a mountain of solid rock. Not even a blade of grass grows on the sheer vertical rock. This is a paragon to house the throne”
Built by a King of Maurya Dystansy and was called Rayri.
Seized and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and made it his capital in 1674 and remade it to Raigad.
His Rajabhishek was done here when he was coronation as King of the Martha Empire.
On 3rd April 1680, Shivaji Maharaj passed away on this fort
In 1689, the Mughals captured this fort, and Aurangzeb renamed it “Islamabad”.
In 1765, the Raigad Fort was the target of an armed expedition by the British East India Company who saw it as a piratical stronghold and thereby bombarded and destroyed in 1818, and the looted the fort, it is believed they even robbed fort of golden throne weighing 1000kg.
Ruins of Market place, it is interesting to know that the market is elevated from the ground as the people used to shop on horses.
How to reach
You can stay overnight in the fort as there are rooms available by MTDC
Famous among trekking & photography enthusiasts.
Best time to visit is Monsoon Months ( July – October) and winter months ( December – Feb)
Please book a guide, who can the significance of all the main points well.
In the heart of Mumbai city, these millennium-old Buddhist caves take you back to the era when the Buddhist religion was at its peak in this region. Largest Buddhist site in India with more than 100 caves excavations on one hill.
These caves were built between the 1st and 11th centuries and consist of 109 rock-cut caves which include Viharas (monasteries), Chaitya (Meditation halls), cisterns and one of the earliest statues of Buddhist iconography.
Why this location was ideal for Kahneri caves
The Ancient trade route between important ports like Sopara and Kalyan passed through Kahneri (Krishnagiri – Black mountain ). Businessmen would use it for staying during their long travels. Various inscriptions at Kahneri mention that various businessmen contributed to building these caves.
Why should you visit Kahneri Caves
109 rock-cut caves of different types
This is the first cave you encounter, It is a Vihara and only two-storied cave in Kahneri. The interior part of the cave is unfinished probably due to a structural defect in the architecture.
This cave is simple and has a long verandah to provide relief in Monsoons.
Cave 2 has Stupas in a separate section.
Cave 3 is the chaitya cave and the most celebrated cave of Kahneri.
On the entrance on either side, there are huge Buddha statues. These statues are first of its kind in Buddhist Iconogry due to their mammoth size.
These Buddha statues are claimed to be one of the earliest statues of Buddha in India. It is even believed that with these statues, the trend of building large idols of Buddha started which later spread in Asia.
Inside the case is a huge Buddha stupa and it has pillars on either side, few of the pillars are unfinished.
The Durbar Hall or the Assembly Hall has a statue of Buddha enshrined in the center and many small Viharas on either side.
Dining area in Cave 3
Most of the caves are small cells used by Buddhist students for living and meditation.
Each Vihar has a small porch, one main room, and a small room that has a stone bed. Exterior part with have a cistern for water storage on either side
Windows for ventilation carved on all viharas.
Few viharas even have inscriptions on few caves mentioning names of merchants who sponsored for these caves
Huge grinding stone outside each vihara, probably used for grinding purposes or for storing water or food.
Rock Cut Stairs connecting all the caves.
Exterior of Caves
View of caves from the top of the hill
Evolved Rain Water Harvesting System.
Kahneri in Mumbai region is famous for its heavy monsoons which lasts between June to September, Over the years the water management system was evolved by inhabitants to store this rainwater to last them for remaining dry months.
Two hills on which these caves are built look like one water stream flows during Monsoon season and water tanks are built to collect this water.
On the top of the hill there are huge water tanks and then small canals which help to route water from top to bottom in a perfect network system.
These cisterns have multiple level structure where top cisterns fill first and when it is full water routs to next cisterns, to ensure water isn’t waster at all. Each Cave has cisterns on either side.
One of the water tanks on top of the hill
Best season to visit Kahneri Caves
Best Season to visit If you want to explore all the caves is from December – Jan. Climate is pleasant, you can walk around and due to sunlight – the interior of caves is bright.
Even Rainy season is the perfect season to explore caves for adventure purpose as the climate is pleasant and the forest around caves is lush green, however, the interior of caves are dark so I suggest carrying torch if you want to explore caves properly.
During rainy season avoid days when it is pouring heavily as it might get big dangerous as water starts accumulating on the pathways making it slippy and bit dangerous especially if you have kids with you.
I would suggest taking private vehicles till the main entrance of caves and then exploring which will take 2-3 hours.
If you are looking for some adventure you can even walk from the main gate of national park ~ 6kms from caves.
Originally Gharapuri (city of caves), these are a collection of rock-cut caves on an island ~ 10kms away from Gateway of India. Built somewhere between the 5th and 6th centuries by various Hindu Kings. Portuguese removed the stone at the entrance which had inscription details, which was unfortunately lost later on.
Caves got their modern name from Portuguese who made the island as their base in the 17th century. They saw a huge sculpture of an elephant at the entrance and named it Elephanta caves. Unlike Ajanta and Ellora which are primarily Jain and Buddhist caves; these are dedicated to Hindu God Shiva.
Why Elephants caves are so famous
These Caves celebrate Shiva in many forms. Lord Shiva is nirakar (shapeless). Anant (limitless), Param aatma ( the ultimate soul), Adi yoga ( the first Yogi), nothingness – Shoonya ( state of complete zero – or thoughtlessness ), omnipresent, Natraja (Lord of Dance), Rudhra ( Angry form), Gangadhar. He lives the life of a hermit who wears nothing but Tigerskin and is always covered in ash ( Vibhuti).
There are many buddha stupas too.
Why Elephanta caves have defaced sculpture & lost or damaged monuments.
Invaders who knew nothing about India and its grand culture vandalized, looted and damaged beyond repair whatever they could get their hands on. Gharapuri too suffered a lot. First during the Islamic rulers of Gujarat Sultanate and later, when Portuguese made Elephanta Island as their base they used these sculptures for firing and target practices. It is painful to even think about how they vandalized most of the sculptures and damaged them beyond recognition.
Post these thousand years long worship places in Elephanta caves were abandoned.
In the 19th century, even British officials tried to move many beautiful sculptures to England. During one such incident, a huge elephant sculpture got severely damaged which was later moved to Jijamata Udhyan. There are many lost sculptures that can be found in various museums around the world including few in Mumbai Museum (Vastu Sanghralay).
The colonial-era British publications state they were “defaced by the zeal of Mahommedans and Portuguese”.
Main Sculptures – their forms and depictions
Trimurti Sadasiva – three-headed Shiva
Main Murti is 20 feet high and the most celebrated one at Elephanta Caves. It represents the supreme divinity in Hindu Dharma. Tri Deity (Tri Murti) consists of
The right face is of the Creator ( Supreme Brahma) holding a lotus in his hand which represents life.
The central face is in a deep meditative state and has calmness on his face it represents The Preserver ( Lord Vishnu).
The left face is of the god of Destruction or Salvation (Lord Shiva).
This concept plays an important role in Hinduism as it reflects life in all forms from birth to death and beyond.
Ardhanarishvara – androgynous form of Shiva & Shakti
Hinduism celebrates Shiva ( the male power) and his better half Shakti (femininity). Ardhanarishvara represents half Shiva and half Shakti.
This can have many interpretations like Shiva is nothing without Shakti and both are inseparable, or ShivaShakti or ultimate God is gender-neutral but the most important explanation which I have read is that it means the soul has no gender.
This idea also manifested in the union of the Linga of Shiva and Yoni in all Shiva Temples.
Yogishvara – Adiyogi Meditating Shiva
Shiva is known as the first Yogi. Here Shiva is in padmasana, standard pose for meditation. His face looks calm and he is in a deep meditative state. Sadly the legs and arms of the sculpture are broken.
Ganga-Dhara– Shiva trapping Ganga in his matted locks
The story behind this is, Bhagiratha a King prayed to Lord Brahma to bring Goddess Ganga from heaven to earth to wash away the sins of his ancestors. Lord Brahma granted him his wish. Goddess Ganga was angry, mighty and wild and her descent to earth could bring only destruction. So Shiva calmly trapped her in his matted locks (jhata) and let her out only in small & calmer streams. Here you can see Bhagiratha with his folded hands in the bottom-left corner, tri-faced rivers Ganga Yamuna and Saraswati on top. Brahma, Vishnu and many others witnessing this moment.
Kalyanasundaram– Shiv Parvati Wedding
Wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Bride on the right and groom on the left. Bride is beautifully adorned with jewelry and looking shy. Groom is wearing sacred thread around his chest which has significance to date in Hindu marriages. The bride’s father is giving her away. Their hands now damaged but look like they were holding hands.
In the center of the main cave is huge ShivLing, where Shiva is worshiped in the form of Linga and Yoni. To date, all the Shiv temples are worshiped in this form. One of the exterior walls is Raksha Dwarpal (demon guardians) carrying weapons and guarding the cave.
Andhakasura-vadha – Killing of Andhaka
Andhaka a King who had a boom that he could only be killed by Shiva but no one else. Believing he was mortal he concurred almost everything and became Lord of three worlds (Dharti, Patal & Dev Lok). He was turning into an invincible monster. One day when he tried to forcefully take the beautiful wife of a hermit which turned out to be Lord Shiva himself. It angered Shiva and started a full-fledged battle which lasted for five hundred years. Here Shiva is in angry form, he is carrying a bowl in one hand which has the blood of Andhaka.
Ravananugraha– Ravan trying to uproot Mount Kailasha
Ravan with his all power tried to uproot Mount Kailash (the abode of Shiv Parvati). Shiva pressed the mountain with his big toe and trapped Ravana in Patal Loka. Ravana understood his mistake and started praying to Lord Shiva.
Nataraja – The Dancing Shiva
Nataraj represents Shiva in a dancing form. Dance form can be of Tandhav (dance of destruction) or Lasya which is the dance of celebration. Shiva looks graceful here and his 8 hands depicting Nataraj form. Sadly this sculpture too is Vandalized and in ruins.
How to Reach
Take a boat from Gateway of India. It takes around 1 hour to reach Elephanta caves.
Elephanta Caves is perfect for a half-day trip from Mumbai.
Where to Stay
You can choose to any stay anywhere in Mumbai as the Gateway Of India is easily accessible within 1 hour from any part of Mumbai 🙂
Caves are closed on Monday.
Please avoid the rainy season. Boats to Elephanta caves don’t ply during the rainy season (mid-June – Sep end ).
Winter months are perfect for visiting Elephanta Caves.
Please wear caps and sunglasses as it gets really hot during the day.
Prefer comfortable wear as you need to walk a little bit.