The Gist of Yojana: October 2016

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 drinking.

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.

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