A unique stepwell called Rani-ki-Vav in Gujarat's Patan town has been approved by the UNESCO to be listed under World Heritage sites, the Union Ministry of Culture stated on Sunday.

The stepwell was understood to be built in 11th century. Rani-ki-Vav being on the World Heritage List is a testimony to the traditional water systems of India, the government pointed out.

Rani-ki-Vav reflects India's architectural structure and marks the zenith in the evolution of stepwells in India. The recognition was granted by the UNESCO at the World Heritage Committee Session, currently at Doha, Qatar, the Ministry of Culture revealed.

UNESCO has recognized this masterpiece as an exceptional example of technological development in utilizing ground water resources in a single component water management system. It illustrates the exceptional capacity to break large spaces into smaller volumes, following ideal aesthetic proportions.

The stepwell is the most developed, elaborate and ornate example of a unique type of Indian subterranean architectural structure, the Ministry said. It is a particularly large and complex example of a stepwell, with seven storeys of ornamented panels of sculptures and relief, representing the height of the Maru-Gurjara style.

Following the flooding and disappearance of the Saraswati River due to geotectonic changes, the property was buried under layers of silt for almost seven centuries, and has been preserved underneath in an exceptional state of conservation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The stepwell is digitally documented through collaboration between ASI, CyArk and the Scottish Ten.

Rani-ki-Vav was nominated by ASI for the World Heritage List of UNESCO in February 2013. The process of nomination of the stepwell, the management strategy presented for the property and Buffer Zone as per Operational Guidelines of UNESCO can be credited to the excellent teamwork between ASI and the government of Gujarat.

The dossier was prepared by an in-house team of experts within the ASI and was vetted by the Ministry of Culture through its Advisory Committee at various stages. The state government of Gujarat supported the protection of Buffer Zone as a protected area in the Development Plan.

The state worked with ASI officials to mark around the Rani-ki-Vav including the excavated area of the historic Sahastralinga Talao under ASI, as well as the unexcavated areas of the Talao, which falls under agricultural fields for future protection in the development plan.

The initiative of additionally protecting the surrounding areas around Rani-ki-Vav with its inclusion in the Local Development Plan is an exemplary example of integrating heritage with planning and needs to be emulated for heritage sites across India.

The local residents of Patan, who were engaged actively in the process, provided full support to ASI and the state government in the process. The field evaluation by ICOMOS (the Advisory Body to UNESCO) deserve a special mention in achieving this target of placing this stepwell on the World Heritage List.