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Steps to Water
The Ancient Stepwells of India
Morna Livingston

ISBN 9781568983240
Publication date 4/1/2002
9.62 x 12 inches (24.4 x 30.5 cm), Hardcover
240 pages, 140 color illustrations, 92 b/w illustrations
Rights: World; Carton qty: 10; (146.0)

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From the fifth to the nineteenth centuries, the people of western India built stone cisterns to collect the water of the monsoon rains and keep it accessible for the remaining dry months of the year. These magnificent structures-known as stepwells or stepped ponds-are much more than utilitarian reservoirs. Their lattice-like walls, carved columns, decorated towers, and intricate sculpture make them exceptional architecture., while their very presence tells much about the region's ecology and history. For these past 500 years, stepwells have been an integral part of western Indian communities as sites for drinking, washing, and bathing, as well as for colorful festivals and sacred rituals. Steps to Water traces the fascinating history of stepwells, from their Hindu origins, to their zenith during Muslim rule, and eventual decline under British occupation. It also reflects on their current use, preservation, and place in Indian communities. In stunning color and quadtone photographs and drawings, Steps to Water reveals the depth of the stepwells' beauty and their intricate details, and serves as a lens on these fascinating cultural and architectural monuments.


Morna Livingston , a documentary photographer specializing in architecture and cultural landscapes, has spent 15 years researching and photographing stepwells. She currently teaches design, drawing, and vernacular architecture at the Philadelphia University.

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Editorial Reviews


Yoga Journal:
"In this lavishly illustrated, large-format book, documentary photographer Livingstons images and text eloquently convey their architectural and cultural value and compellingly argue for their preservation and restoration."

AJ - Architects Journal (UK):
"Well-researched and illustrated account of monuments that are often overlooked."

Armchair Traveler, Newsday:
"This book comes as a revelation to me this is a history lesson, a religious study, too, and a photographic masterpiece, full of fascinating details and meditative vistas. . . . By focusing on something as basic as water, she has found a wellspring of profound truth."

Book News, Inc.:
"Clearly a labor of love worthy of an oversize presentation. . ."

Style Manitoba (Canada):
"Writer and photographer Morna Livingston has studied these structures for 15 years, and has come up with this lavishly illustrated book. . . . these [stepwells] are overlooked treasures."

The Architects Journal:
"Clearly a labour of love in which Livingston is photographer, researcher and cultural historian....[her] numerous photographs are well-reproduced, while her text explores not just the primary function but the larger religious/cultural dimension of the wells."

Landscape Architecture:
"Historic water systems have practical as well as aesthetic and symbolic importance. In few parts of the world do these three qualities of historic waterworks come together as powerfully as in the stepwells of western India, and no previous book presents them as beautifully as Morna Livingstons STEPS TO WATER. Its photographs, many of them in color, are the work of an accomplished artist; its text is poetic and its production (layout, typography, maps, renderings) is superb."

Los Angeles Times:
"These photographs (color and black-and-white, all by the author) and architectural drawings can be staggering; think of an M.C. Escher pattern turned into three dimensions and reflected in a pool."

Style Manitoba (Canada):
"Writer and photographer Morna Livingston has studied these structures for 15 years, and has come up with this lavishly illustrated book. . . . these [stepwells] are overlooked treasures."

Library Journal:
"The erudite text presents building types, engineering, functions, art, ecology, and changes through the centuries, including sanitation and preservation concerns. Livingstons poignant photographs capture the decayed and neglected condition of many sites. Maps, a chronology, a glossary, and even a bibliography of stepwell literature make this the definitive work in English."

The Architectural Review:
"A lovingly photographed and thoughtfully written survey of many of the best surviving examples. . . with some inspired drawings by Michael McCabe."

Sacred Places, Geographical Magazine (UK):
"Livingston tells a spectacular story, offering her own insight int the importance of wells, past and present."



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