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Victoria Lautman

*Journalist - Lecturer - Author * The Vanishing Stepwells of India *(Merrell Publishers, London) *All my photos: cheap camera...

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Every stepwell projects an air of mystery but the anonymous, hidden, overgrown Van Talab baoli is poster girl for the entire typology. Buried off a backroad near Jaipur, it’s literally inaccessible - even to me, since I lack a machete. The name references an ugly dried-up pond nearby, and -like the temples of Angkor Wat or at Tikal, you can barely make it out through the trees. In my book it’s ascribed to several different centuries based on the observations of a local conservationist. 1600? 1900? Both?? Like nearly every stepwell, we’ll probably never know. Hello, you Mysterious Stranger...#arch2o #arch20 #architecture #architecturephotography #architect #architects #architecturestudent #instaarchitecture #travel #travelphotography #travelphotography #travelphotographer #photooftheday #stepwellsofindia #travelgram #travelling #olafureliasson #architectureinspiration #architectureindia #architecturalphotography #heritage #architecturehistory #architecture1o1 #architecturedaily #architectlife #atlasobscura #frommers #architecturestyle #architecteye #lonelyplanetindia #objects

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It makes a pretty picture, but those romantic dangling vines are slowly destroying the early 12th-century Batris Kotha stepwell in Kapadvanj, Gujarat. Squashed in by tall buildings on three sides, its masonry blocks looted, the water filled with trash, this marvelous structure still hasn’t called it quits after 900 years. Is Batris Kotha really 32 stories deep as its name suggests? Doubtful. But it’s plenty deep anyway. #atlasobscura #stepwellsofindia #stepwells #architecture_hunter #curateddesign #india #indiaarchitecture #archdigestindia #architecture #architecturephotography #architecturehistory #architectures #architecture_view #architecturelovers #architecture_magazine #travelblogger #travelphotography #indiatravel #architecture_hunter #architecturalpreservation #heritage #masonry #arch20 #designboom

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If you were hot and thirsty on your way to Jaipur in the mid-18th century, you might have stopped here for a wee drink and rest. Maaji ki bawadi (stepwell, to you...) was built near to the old Jaipur-Amer road, and is nestled in the Aravalli hills, down a dirt lane, outside the current town of Amer. It’s a gorgeous place, such a pretty structure with that elegant, bowed “bangaldar” roof seen in this region of Rajasthan. But check out an earlier post showing the creepy, rocky maw of the well basin - not a place you’d want to slip and fall! #architecture #architecturephotography #architecture_hunter #curateddesign #atlasobscura #india #indianarchitecture #indiatourism #water #photography #photooftheday #photographer #indiaarchitecture #architecturaldigestindia #architecturepreservation #heritage #victorialautman #stepwellsofindia #stepwells #architecturalhistory #heatherwickstudio #architectureanddesign #architectureandpeople #travelblogger #travelphotography #travelersnotebook #objectsmagazine

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Recently, Rani ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat, (the Mother Ship of all stepwells, with the possible exception of Chand Baori...) received the astounding honor of becoming the new “face” of India’s 100-rupee note. This was unthinkable even 5 years ago, before the enormous, lusciously-ornamented stepwell was granted UNESCO status. Such a star-turn nearly makes up for the tragic history of the subterranean marvel: built by queen Udaymati in 1063, the structure flooded soon after completion, then collapsed and was buried - Pompeii style - for nearly a millennium. Udaymati must be ecstatic somewhere. #atlasobscura #preservation #photographer #travelphotography #photographers_of_india #india #indiatravel #india_gram #photography #photooftoday #tourism #touristphoto #philately #frommers #stepwell #heritage #architecture #architect #architecturelovers #history #arch20 #arch2o #designboom #architizer #archilovers #architectural #architektur

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Another view of Neemrana stepwell, from (nearly) the bottom looking up to ground level. It’s easy to forget that stepwells are all subterranean, built by hand/shovel/ox centuries ago. Excavating many stories deep rather than building up is way more challenging, and who knows how many of these suckers caved in. Marvels, all. Don’t forget to check out the book if you want more, more, more!#india #indiaarchitecture #indiatourism #architecture #architecturephotography #atchitecturelovers #architectureporn #heritage #photooftheday #architecture_magazine #photography #stepwell #architecturaldetails #rajasthan #design #arch20 #frommers #atlasobscura #preservation #photographer #photographers_of_india #travelphotography #travelblogger #travel

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I could post pics of Neemrana stepwell everyday, it’s one of my favorites and has such a strong “personality”. Plus, it’s deep, dangerous, and gargantuan, embedded 9-stories down into Rajasthan’s arid earth outside the small village of Neemrana. I’m sticking with the 1570 date but there are at least two others ascribed to it and anyway, who cares, it’s astonishing. This magnificent, decayed beauty is just off the Delhi/Jaipur highway but it’s basically unknown. #india #indiatravel #indiatourism #itsabandoned #rajasthan #photography #photoshoot #photooftheday #photographer #photo #travel #travelblogger #travelphotography #travelphotographer #architecturephotography #architecture #architect #architecture_magazine #heritage #conservationphotography #stepwell #stepwellsofindia #design #atlasobscura #frommers #victorialautman

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Lolark kund in Varanasi is the strangest stepwell I’ve seen: that tall, thin archway is like an all-seeing eye, dark, mysterious, and a bit ominous. This is one deep shocking plunge, luckily with modern handrails to clutch. It’s also an important pilgrimage site and each year during a monsoon festival, thousands of women arrive to dip in the holy water, in hopes of conceiving a male child. Piles of soggy clothes are left behind in piles on the steep steps, while jewelry, coins, and other offerings are tossed in the water. Unlike other stepwells, even trying to guess an accurate date for Lolark is impossible. It’s always described simply as “very old”. Your guess is as good as mine! #india #indiatravel #indiatourism #travel #traveler #travelblogger #travelphotographer #travelphotography #design #designinspiration #varanasi #photojournalism #photooftheday #photographers #architecture #architectureporn #architecturelovers #architecturehunter #heritage #heritagearchitecture #art #historyofarchitecture

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Too bad the millions of tourists alighting in Delhi each year are oblivious to the city’s impressive subterranean stepwells, sometimes just a block from their tour buses! Rajon ki baoli (c. 1516) is one of my faves, sunk several stories into the earth, with a steep, scary drop down stone stairs if you’re not alert. Although the goats sometimes wandering around Mehrauli archeological park seem unperturbed. Shady colonnades surround three sides of the brawny structure, topped by a diminutive mosque: this stepwell was built under Muslim rule, hence its stately simplicity. #india #indiatravel #indiatourism #indiatravelgram #delhi #architecture #architectureporn #architecturelovers #architecturephotography #architectural #photo #photographers #photojournalism #photooftheday #photographers_of_india #heritage #masonry #arch20 #frommers #atlasobscura #design #designinspiration

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Don’t fall - it’s a six story plunge down the octagonal core of Dada Harir stepwell in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The (female and seemingly well-paid) guardian of the king’s harem commissioned this lavishly-decorated well around 1500 a.d.and added a mosque and her own tomb alongside. A formerly pretty spot, these days the stepwell is crowded in on all sides as the city sprawls around it. #architecture #architectureporn #architecturelovers #heritagearchitecture #heritage #stepwell #architecturephotography #architecture_hunter #photo #photographer #photooftheday #photojournalism #photographerslife #india #indiatravel #travel #travelblogger #traveler #gujarat #ahmedabad #masonry #design #designinspiration #preservation #victorialautman

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It’s insane: the Navlakhi stepwell (c. 1405) in Baroda, Gujarat, gets top prize for visual chaos. Those cross-braces are a desperate (and successful, 600 years later) attempt to hold back the walls, seen in lots of Gujarati wells where the soil is soft. Look closely and you can see that the columns don’t match - they were cannibalized from other structures. No biggie - everyone did it... #architecture #archilovers #architects #architecturephotography #architectureporn #architecturelovers #architecturehunter #architecturestudent #travel #travelblogger #travelgirl #travelphotography #travelphoto #photooftheday #photographer #photographers #photo #photojournalism #india #indiatourism #indiatravelgram #history #architecturepresentation #preservation #stepwell #victorialautman #heritage #heritagearchitecture #gujarat

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I love Assi Khambha (meaning “eighty pillars”...) stepwell because it plays hide-n-seek with those stairs. There’s only a vague masonry outline, nicely symmetrical, leading to trash-enhanced water -creepy and dark on the inside. It’s on the grounds of Gwalior Fort in Madhya Pradesh, probably built around 1500, and used strictly by royals. #architecture #archilovers #architecturephotography #architectureporn #architect #architecturelovers #arch2o #architecture_magazine #architecturestudent #architecturehunter #india #indiatourism #heritage #stepwell #photooftheday #photoftheday #photography #photographers #photographer #design #masonry #ancientarchitecture #history #preservation #curated_archi #victorialautman

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Sulphur - pew! That’s how Delhi’s Gandhak ki Baoli got its name, and the aromatic waters were believed to be medicinal. These days, the only detectable smell is of garbage. From the 13th century, this is the oldest existing stepwell in a city that once had over a hundred - so, bonus points for hanging in there. It’s not humongous or decorative, but the intimate scale and incredible age still packs a wallop. #india #delhi #stepwells #indiatravelgram #tourism #indiatourism #travelphotography #travelblogger #travel #photographers #photography #photooftheday #phototoday #architecture #architecture_magazine #architecturephotography #architecturelovers #architecturestudents #heritage #ancientarchitecture #designinspiration #arch2o #curateddesign #victorialautman

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Electric green. It’s not slime - just tiny foliage on the undisturbed water. It makes this pretty little stepwell (c. 1800, in Narnaul, Haryana) seem kinda jaunty. Look closely and you can make out painted decoration. #arch #architecture #archilovers #architectureporn #architect #architecturephotography #architecturelovers #architecture_magazine #architectural #travel #travelphotography #travelblogger #photography #photooftheday #photojournalism #tourism #india #stepwell #arch2o #frommers #curateddesign #design #designinspiration #victorialautman

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It’s hard to believe this is the natural color of sandstone in parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. You can see it in many monuments and palaces, including the entire abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. So it’s no surprise the Shah Quli Baoli (c. 1569 - 84) just outside the city’s entrance has the same rich, rusty tone. Amazing structure, it’s seen by pretty much no-one although right there off the main road (sometimes festooned with laundry). There’s enough water to irrigate surrounding trees, that’s good, but it would make a dandy tourist attraction, no? #architecture #architecturephotography #architect #architectureporn #architecturelovers #arch2o #curateddesign #atlasobscura #photography #photoftheday #photographers #photographers_of_india #photos #travel #travelblogger #travelgram #travelphoto #travelling #traveller #traveldiaries #heritage #india #indiatourism #ancientarchitecture #victorialautman #architecturebuilding #design #designporn #travelersnotebook #heritagearchitecture

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