Photographer on the hunt: Discovering India’s ancient stepwells


Armed with a humble little point-and-shoot camera ("Well, I'm sliding in horrible pits, I need to be able to hold it in my teeth") the Chicago-based adventure-journalist travels across India hunting for ancient, unexplored ruins.

Lautman's favorite pastime, or "obsession" as she calls it, is finding stepwells, large often cavernous wells in which water may be reached by descending a set of steps. Dating back as far as AD 600, these incredible architectural feats of design have been largely forgotten — until now.

Over the past four years, Lautman has visited over 120 stepwells. "In its heyday there were around 3,000 stepwells throughout India. Now, there are about 1,000 left," she estimates. Stepwells were traditionally used throughout India to tap into the country's deep water tables — and some, like the Chand Baori (baori, one of the Hindi words for well) in the western state of Rajasthan, run more than 100 feet into the ground.

"They proliferated in places where it was hard to get water, like deserts," Lautman explains. Their designs — which differ widely across regions, are informed by varied environments. "The shape and width, a lot of those determinations [for design] had to do with the quality of stone and soil. In some sandier places, like Gujarat, there are bridging elements in place to keep walls from collapsing, because the soil is loose," Lautman observes.

Source : CNN News