The Forgotten Stepwells of Rajasthan is a new photography exhibition by Peter Bennion. Rajasthan is a popular tourist destination renowned for showcasing the vibrant life and colour of India and is home to a wonderful collection of spectacular old palaces and hilltop forts. But tucked away beneath the surface is another hidden architectural treasure. Peter tells us more…
“About twenty years ago I saw a photograph of an astonishing underground architectural wonder – a stepwell. It took me many years to find one but it turns out that there are hundreds, including many in the desert state of Rajasthan. They’re hidden from view – underground, underused and often dry and derelict. They can be hard to find, local people are not interested in them and descending into their depths can be unnerving. Bats fly at you in crumbling staircases, narrow fragile ledges require all your nerve. The bottom of the well may have a narrow tunnel to crawl through while you try to ignore the mosquitos and ask yourself – is this stupid? But having found one, exploring the chambers and staircases is irresistible. School boys sometimes run down the steps before school to see if there’s a body at the bottom of the well shaft.”
Peter set about exploring some of the small towns in Rajasthan in February and September of this year and spent time photographing these beautiful, forgotten masterpieces. The photographs are on display and for sale at the Silk Road Gallery from now until the end of February. And if you haven’t been there before, you can find the gallery behind the main Sharrow Vale Road on the cobbled lane between the Greek Deli and Porter Pets. It’s open on Fridays & Saturdays from 11:30am-4:00pm and on Sharrow Vale Market days. Go and take a look.
Images: Peter Bennion