Stepwells are unique to India and are a delight to see. Because of the region's dry climate and low water table, wells are needed for survival. Stepwells seem the prefered historic method of accessing water, and are characterized by stairs that lead to the well.
The only stepwell I've seen is Chand Baori, in the village of Abaneri in eastern Rajasthan, about 95 km from Jaipur. This amazing structure is more than a thousand years old and is said to be one of the largest stepwells ever built.
Chand Baori was built by King Chand Raja during the 8th and 9th centuries. It features 3,500 narrow, symmetric steps descending more than 20 meters to the water table. The precise symmetry of the wells is what most people find captivating.
The stairs encircle the water on the three sides while the fourth side features a pillared corridors and two balconies, adorned in idols, as you can see in the above photos.
The upper part of the structure, with columned arcade surrounding the stepwell, was built almost a thousand years later, during the Mughal period.
Today the well is not used anymore, but the site is popular with visitors. There are some old sculptures and carvings, probably reminants of an old temple.