Tourists in India dutifully make the rounds, visiting the spectacular temples, palaces, and forts the country has to offer. But, even when they're practically under their feet, people often forget about stepwells, the massive subterranean (up to ten stories) structures that dot the Indian landscape.
As this video explains, stepwells, first constructed around 300 CE, were born out of a need to dependably collect and store water. They boast highly complex circulation and ornamentation, and over the years have evolved to function also as community centres and temples. But, as architecture journalist Victoria Lautman has pointed out, with the spread of industrialisation and drought (not to mention widespread demolition), stepwells are slowly becoming derelict.
But the outlook isn't completely bleak: some are being renovated, and others have served as inspiration for contemporary architects and filmmakers (the prison scenes in "The Dark Knight Rises" were actually filmed in Indian stepwells). With luck, these magnificent historic structures may yet have a future.