The Gist of Yojana: October 2016
Water Harvesting: The Traditional Way
Rain water harvesting systems and water management systems have been in
existence in India since time immemorial. Preservation and management of water
was taken up in a very serious way.
Evidence of water harvesting and management have been found
even in the Indus Valley civilization- Archaeological evidence of irrigation and
drinking water supply systems through a large number of wells with brick lining
have been found at several Indus Valley sites. Dholavira, an important site of
Indus Valley had several reservoirs to collect rain water. In Lothal (Gujarat)
and Inamgaon (Maharashtra) and other places in north and western India, small
bunds were built by the local people to store rain water for irrigation and
Kautilya’s Arthashastra mentions dams and bunds that were
built for irrigation during the period of the Mauryan Empire. The Satvahanas
(1st Century B.C.-2nd Century A.D.) introduced the brick and ring wells. Lake
and well irrigation was developed on a large scale during the time of Pandya,
Chera and Chola dynasties in South India (lst-3rd Century A.D.) and large
structures were built across the Cauvery and Vaigai rivers. Water resources
development on a large scale took place during the Gupta era (300-500 A.D.). In
the South, the Pallavas expanded the irrigation system in the 7th Century A.D.
The famous Cauvery Anicut was built during this period. Large-scale construction
of tanks (Tataka) for tapping rain water was also done in Tamil Nadu. The Chola
period (985-1205 A.D.) witnessed the introduction of quite advanced irrigation
systems, which brought prosperity in the Deccan region.
Dams, tanks and irrigations canals were built by kings from
different dynasties all over the country. In eastern India, Pala and Sena Kings
(760-1100 A.D.) built a number of large tanks and lakes in their kingdoms.
Rajtarangini of Kalhana gives a detailed account of irrigation systems developed
in the 12th Century in Kashmir.Feroze Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388 A.D.) built the
Western Yamuna Canal in 1355 to extend irrigation facilities in the dry land
tracts of the present-day Haryana and Rajasthan. Emperor Shahjahan built many
canals, prominent among these being the Bari Doab or the Hasli Canal. Under the
rule of Rangila Muhammad Shah, the Eastern Yamuna Canal was built to irrigate
large tracts in Uttar Pradesh. The Vijaynagar Kingdom (1336-1546 A.D.) in the
south took keen interest in building large and small storage tanks like the
Anantraj Sagar tank across the Maldevi river and the Korangal dam. The Bahamani
rulers (1388-1422 A.D.) introduced canal irrigation for the first time in the
eastern provinces of the Deccan.
All forts, built in different terrains and climatic
conditions, had elaborate arrangements for drinking water. Those built on
hilltops or in rocky terrain depended mainly on rain water harvested from
surrounding hills. The Amber Fort near Jaipur built about three centuries ago is
a classic example of such a system. It has an automatic arrangement for
desilting and aeration of harvested rain water before its entry into the large
storage tank. The Jodhpur fort in western Rajasthan had water harvesting
arrangements to tap both rain water and groundwater. The Panhala Fort of Maharaj
Shivaji built on a hillock near Kolhapur in Maharashtra had Baolis and wells to
tap underground springs originating in nearby higher hill slopes. The fort at
Chittor on top of a hill has a large reservoir formed from the harvested waters
of springs. At the Buddhist site of Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) dating back to the
3rd Century B.C., there are three ancient tanks to store rain water from the
hill slopes.Most of the old temples in South India built centuries ago have
large tanks in their premises. These tanks are either fed by harvested rain
water or by tapping underground springs. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are 39
temple tanks with areas varying from 0.25 to 3 hectares. These are all fed by
rain water. Though these were used mainly for bathing and religious purposes,
these also recharged the drinking water wells.
While the state only built infrastructure for storage of
water on a large scale and for irrigation purposes, individual communities had
their own water management and rainwater harvesting techniques - each being
suitable to the geography and climate of the locality.
Both Gujarat and Rajasthan had well developed and efficient
water management systems, mainly due to their arid and desert geography. Notable
among these are the Paar system, talabs/bandhis, sazakuva, Johads, naada/bandhas,
rapat, chandela and bundeJa tanks, kund/kundis, Kuis and Beris, jhalaras, nadis,
tobas, tankas, khadins, vav/vavdil bavadi/baoli, virdas and Ahar Pynes.