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Thursday, September 3, 2015

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Journalist Spends Four Years Traversing India to Document Crumbling Subterranean Stepwells in India Before they Disappear (11 Pics)

Across India an entire category of architecture is slowly crumbling into obscurity, and you’ve probably never even heard it. The massive subterranean temples were designed as a primary way to access the water table in regions where the climate vacillates between blisteringly dry during most months, with a few weeks of torrential monsoons in the spring.

Construction of stepwells involved not just the sinking of a typical deep cylinder from which water could be hauled, but the careful placement of an adjacent, stone-lined “trench” that, once a long staircase and side ledges were embedded, allowed access to the ever-fluctuating water level which flowed through an opening in the well cylinder.  the steps sometimes to the surface.

In dry seasons, every step—which could number over a hundred—had to be negotiated to reach the bottom story. But during rainy seasons, a parallel function kicked in and the trench transformed into a large cistern, filling to capacity and submerging.

This ingenious system for water preservation continued for a millennium.

Thousands of stepwells were built in India starting around the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D.

where they first appeared as rudimentary trenches
but slowly evolved into much more elaborate feats of engineering and art.

While some stepwells near areas of heavy tourism are well maintained,

most are used as garbage dumping grounds and are overgrown with wildlife or caved in completely


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