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Stepwells, also called bawdi () or baoli (), or vaav () are well or ponds in which the water can be reached by descending a set of steps. They may be covered and protected, and are often of architectural significance. It can be multi-storied also in which a bullock turns the water wheel ("Rehat") to raise the water in the well to the first or second floor.

They are most common in the west of India. They may be also found in the other more arid regions of the subcontinent, extending into Pakistan. The construction may be utilitarian, but sometimes includes significant architectural embellishments.

A number of distinct names, sometimes local, exist for stepwells. In Hindi speaking regions, they include names based on baudi (including bawdi, bawri, baoli, bavadi, bavdi). In Gujarati and Marwari language, they are usually called vav or vaav.

All forms of the stepwell may be considered to be particular examples of the many types of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed in India, mainly to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability. A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, was to make it easier for people to reach the ground water, and to maintain and manage the well.

In some related types of structure (johara wells), ramps were built to allow cattle to reach the water.

The majority of surviving stepwells originally also served a leisure purpose, as well as providing water. This was because the base of the...
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