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On the concept of Stepwells in Ancient India

The first rock-cut stepwells in India are dated from 200 AD to 400 AD. They are a repository of knowledge about water collection, storage and distribution in water starved areas in ancient India. As per Hindus scriptures, donating building a water body or donating money to have one constructed has been considered to be an act of punya, a good deed.

You can read an extensive article on the stepwells in India can befound here at Tribune
The rock edict of Rudradaman at Junagadh in western India, inscribed in 150 AD, speaks about the Sudarshan lake of Junagadh, built originally by the great Mauryan emperors. This edict, written in Sanskrit, is the oldest such edict extant in India. The edict notes the reparations done by Mahakshtrap Rudradaman on the Sudarshan Lake. Three hundred years after Rudradaman’s inscription, the edict of Skand Gupta also speaks about the reparations conducted by the Gupta king in 455-456 AD, showing how important was the matter of water, both for the people and the king who ruled them. The more than 5,000-year-old Indus Valley civilisation is justly famous for its technological sophistication in preserving water.
The unique underground architectural marvels called stepwells have been constructed in Gujarat since the ancient times. This underground construction, peculiar to the Gujarat region (except for southern Gujarat) was the outcome of the hot, arid climate and the paucity of water available for human and animal usage in the region. These stepwells celebrate water, its conservation and take the architecture of the region to a highpoint. There are stepwells with architectural wonders in towns of Gujarat like Patan, Jhinjuwada, Viramgam, Vadhvan, Sarsa, Dhadhalpur, Chobri, Anandpur, Gondal, Virpur, Jetpur and all the way to the coast of Somnath. Among the “water shrines" in Gujarat, the stepwells of Adalaj (near Ahmedabad) and the Ranki vav of Patan (the old Solanki capital in the north of Gujarat) are the supreme examples of stepwell architecture.