In a sandy field between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar is a wall. Thirty years ago, American journalist Victoria Lautman walked up to that wall and was surprised to be looking down into the most intricate architecture she had ever seen. The structure was Rudabai Vav – a five-storey, decagonal step well built at the end of the 15th century. It was the beginning of an obsession for Lautman who calls herself a pagal videshi for returning to India in 2011 and spending four years photographing every step well she could find in the country.
“I have never seen any kind of ancient engineering that could compete with this kind of structure,” said Lautman, who was completely taken by the fact that very few step wells announce their presence until you are literally upon them. “What you experience inside – the way it activates all four of your senses except taste – is something that is very, very hard to feel in contemporary architecture.”
Lautman has visited 120 step wells, which are found mostly in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi but also in many other parts of the country. The wells, called baoli in Delhi, jhalra in Rajasthan and vaav in Gujarat, were all built more than 500 years ago and some as early as in the 2nd century. The wells vary in size and shape – from three to ten storeys into the ground with square, circular or polygonal openings to the sky. They have arches to walk through and platforms to rest on.
Some step wells are well preserved like the Rani Ki Vaav in Patan, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site last year. Some are tourist attractions like the Rudabai Vaav. Others have crumbled and become repositories of trash. “Literally ten minutes away from Rudabai Vaav, in the town of Ambapur, is a step well built at the same time and by the same queen that is fabulous but is completely trashed and nobody sees it. I would say that 90% of the ones I see are in terrible condition,” Lautman observed.
Baoli in Fatehpur
Each well is an architectural and engineering marvel. The wells were built by sinking vertical shafts and removing substantial amounts of sand and rock from the depths. The walls of the well were shored up to prevent them collapsing into the opening. The steps were then built into the side of the well.
Snehal Shah is an architect in Ahmedabad who has been studying step wells for the past 30 years. “One mystery I haven’t been able to solve, is how they knew about soil mechanics,” he said, about the builders of the baolis.
Most of the wells are near rivers, some near temples and villages. They were used not only for the practical purpose of extracting water but also as gathering places, for rituals and rest from traveling.
The baolis were great to access groundwater but they didn’t really have a mechanism to recharge the water table, according to Diwan Singh, convener of a group called Natural Heritage First. “These stepwells were for drawing water from the ground. Harvesting rainwater wasn't part of the job. Recharge usually happened naturally through the ground or through water bodies,” he said. Other structures like the tankas and kundis of Rajasthan collect every possible drop of rain in the arid state. What the step wells do protect is the accessible groundwater from the sun to minimise losses through evaporation.
The experience of the stepwell has overturned some of Lautman’s ideas about architecture. The way we experience architecture is to look up. you look up to see a building, you look across to see a building. This was the first time I had ever actually looked down to access a building. It subverts the idea of what traditional architecture is,” she said.
Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival
We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.
The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:
Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app
Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.
Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.
Plan your shopping
The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.
Track the deals
There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.
Big discounts and top picks
The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.
Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.
There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.
There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are LenovoTab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.
If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.
Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.
The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.
For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.
Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.
For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.
The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.
While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!
If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.
Check-out process and payment options
Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.
Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.