Published titles > Architecture > The Vanishing Stepwells of India
Paperback edition
The Vanishing Stepwells of India cover image
UK £25.00
US $35.00
224 pages
280 colour illustrations
29 x 25 cm (11.5 x 9.75 in)
ISBN: 978-1-8589-4689-4
The Vanishing Stepwells of India

Victoria Lautman

Foreword by Divay Gupta

Some of the finest architectural structures in India are to be found below ground: these are its ancient stepwells. Stepwells are unique to India; the earliest rudimentary wells date from about the 4th century CE, and eventually they were built throughout the country, particularly in the arid western regions. Stepwell construction evolved so that, by the 11th century, they were amazingly complex feats of architecture and engineering, not only providing water all year long but also serving as gathering places, refuges and retreats. The journalist Victoria Lautman first encountered stepwells three decades ago, and this book – now available in paperback for the first time – is a testament to her determined efforts over several years to document these fascinating but largely unknown structures before they disappear. Of the thousands of stepwells that proliferated across India, most were abandoned as a result of modernization and the depletion of water tables. Frequently commissioned by royal or wealthy patrons, the wells vary greatly in scale and design. Some also functioned as subterranean Hindu temples, featuring columned pavilions and elaborate stone carvings. Islamic wells were generally less flamboyant, but often incorporated shady loggias and small chambers in which to relax and escape the stifling heat. Although relatively few stepwells are in use today, the Indian government and heritage organizations are recognizing the need to protect and conserve these architectural wonders. While many wells are still rather decrepit, their magnificent engineering and great beauty never fail to impress.


A new paperback edition of this unique photographic exploration of the remarkable but largely unknown ancient stepwells of India

Photographed and written by a journalist who has been documenting these architectural marvels for several years and regularly lectures on the subject

A must-have book for anyone interested in Indian culture and history, as well as world architecture


Also available in a hardback edition

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Author Profiles

Victoria Lautman is a print and broadcast journalist with a Master of Arts degree in art history. After working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., she hosted and produced several long-running radio programmes in Chicago devoted to art and culture. She has written for dozens of international publications, and her first book, The New Tattoo, was published by Abbeville Press in 1994. A frequent traveller to India since 1982, she now writes and lectures about the subcontinent. 

Divay Gupta is Principal Director of the Architectural Heritage Division at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in New Delhi. One of the country’s leading conservation architects, he has been managing and conserving the cultural resources of India for more than twenty years. He has also participated in missions to Nepal and Cambodia as a conservation expert with UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). His projects in Ladakh have won UNESCO awards of Merit and Excellence.

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An exquisite and revelatory book

A Magazine for RIBA Friends of Architecture

A strikingly illustrated catalogue of India’s old stepwells, which will surely become the definitive guide, not only for future architectural and hydraulic researchers, but for intrepid sightseers, too, if they have a good head for depths

The Times Literary Supplement
Images such as this will ensure that [the stepwells'] legacy lives on
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