A kund or kundi looks like an upturned cup nestling
in a saucer. These structures harvest rainwater for drinking,
and dot the sandier tracts of the Thar Desert in western Rajasthan
and some areas in Gujarat.
Essentially a circular underground well, kunds have a
saucer-shaped catchment area that gently slopes towards the
centre where the well is situated. A wire mesh across water-inlets
prevents debris from falling into the well-pit. The sides of
the well-pit are covered with (disinfectant) lime and ash. Most
pits have a dome-shaped cover, or at least a lid, to protect
the water. If need be, water can be drawn out with a bucket.
The depth and diameter of kunds depend on their use (drinking,
or domestic water requirements). They can be owned by only those
with money to invest and land to construct it. Thus for the
poor, large public kunds have to be built.
Found in western Rajasthan, these are
10-12 m deep pits dug near tanks to collect the seepage. Kuis
can also be used to harvest rainwater in areas with meagre rainfall.
The mouth of the pit is usually made very narrow. This prevents
the collected water from evaporating. The pit gets wider as
it burrows underunder the ground, so that water can seep in
into a large surface area. The openings of these entirely kuchcha
(earthen) structures are generally covered with planks of wood,
or put under lock and key. The water is used sparingly, as a
last resource in crisis situations.
Magga Ram Suthar, of village Pithla in Jaisalmer district in
Rajasthan, is an engineer skilled in making kuis/beris.
or bers are community wells, found in Rajasthan, that
are used mainly for drinking. Most of them are very old and
were built by banjaras (mobile trading communities) for
their drinking water needs. They can hold water for a long time
because of almost negligible water evaporation.
were human-made tanks, found in Rajasthan and Gujarat, essentially
meant for community use and for religious rites. Often rectangular
in design, jhalaras have steps on three or four sides.
Jhalars areground water bodies which are built to ensure easy
& regular supply of water to the surrounding areas .
the jhalars are rectangular in shape with steps on three or
even on all the four sides of the tank . the steps are built
on a series of levels .
The jhalaras collect subterranean seepage of a talab or a lake
located upstream .
The water from these jhalaras was not used for drinking but
for only community bathing and religious rites .
Jhodhpur city has eight jhalaras two of which are inside the
town & six are found outside the city .
The oldest jhalara is the mahamandir jhalara which dates back
to 1660 AD
are village ponds, found near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. They are
used for storing waterfrom an adjoining natural catchment during
the rainy season. The site was selected by the villagers based
on an available natural catchments and its water yield potential.
Water availability from nadi would range from two months to
a year after the rains. They are dune areas range from 1.5 to
4.0 metres and those in sandy plains varied from 3 to 12 metres.
The location of the nadi had a strong bearing on its storage
capacity due to the related catchment and runoff characteristics.
is the local name given to a ground depression with a natural
catchment area. A hard plot of land with low porosity, consisting
of a depression and a natural catchment area was selected for
the construction of tobas.
(small tank) are underground tanks, found traditionally in most
Bikaner houses. They are built in the main house or in the courtyard.
They were circular holes made in the ground, lined with fine
polished lime, in which raiwater was collected. Tankas
were often beautifully decorated with tiles, which helped to
keep the water cool. The water was used only for drinking. If
in any year there was less than normal rainfall and the tankas
did not get filled, water from nearby wells and tanks would
be obtained to fill the household tankas. In this way,
the people of Bikaner were able to meet their water requirements.
The tanka system is also to be found in the pilgrim town
of Dwarka where it has been in existence for centuries. It continues
to be used in residential areas, temples, dharamshalas
A khadin, also called a dhora,
is an ingenious construction designed to harvest surface runoff
water for agriculture. Its main feature is a very long (100-300
m) earthen embankment built across the lower hill slopes lying
below gravelly uplands. Sluices and spillways allow excess water
to drain off. The khadin system is based on the principle
of harvesting rainwater on farmland and subsequent use of this
water-saturated land for crop production.
First designed by the Paliwal Brahmins of Jaisalmer, western
Rajasthan in the 15th century, this system has great similarity
with the irrigation methods of the people of Ur (present Iraq)
around 4500 BC and later of the Nabateans in the Middle East.
A similar system is also reported to have been practised 4,000
years ago in the Negev desert, and in southwestern Colorado
500 years ago.
/ vavdi / Baoli / Bavadi
Traditional stepwells are called vav
or vavadi in Gujarat, or baolis or bavadis
in Rajasthan and northern India. Built by the nobility usually
for strategic and/or philanthropical reasons, they were secular
structures from which everyone could draw water. Most of them
are defunct today.
The construction of stepwells date from four periods: Pre-Solanki
period (8th to 11th century CE); Solanki period (11th to 12th
century CE); Vaghela period (mid-13th to end-14th century CE);
and the Sultanate period (mid-13th to end-15th century CE).
Sculptures and inscriptions in stepwells demonstrate their importance
to the traditional social and cultural lives of people.
Stepwell locations often suggested the way in which they would
be used. When a stepwell was located within or at the edge of
a village, it was mainly used for utilitarian purposes and as
a cool place for social gatherings. When stepwells were located
outside the village, on trade routes, they were often frequented
as resting places. Many important stepwells are located on the
major military and trade routes from Patan in the north to the
sea coast of Saurashtra. When stepwells were used exclusively
for irrigation, a sluice was constructed at the rim to receive
the lifted water and lead it to a trough or pond, from where
it ran through a drainage system and was channelled into the
A major reason for the breakdown of this traditional system
is the pressure of centralisation and agricultural intensification.
are shallow wells dug in low depressions called jheels
(tanks). They are found all over the Banni grasslands, a part
of the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. They are systems built
by the nomadic Maldharis, who used to roam these grasslands.
Now settled, they persist in using virdas.
These structures harvest rainwater. The topography of the area
is undulating, with depressions on the ground. By studying the
flow of water during the monsoon, the Maldharis identify these
depressions and make their virdas there.
Essentially, the structures use a technology that helps the
Maldharis separate potable freshwater from unpotable salt water.
After rainwater infiltrates the soil, it gets stored at a level
above the salty groundwater because of the difference in their
density. A structure is built to reach down (about 1 m) to this
upper layer of accumulated rainwater. Between these two layers
of sweet and saline water, there exists a zone of brackish water.
As freshwater is removed, the brackish water moves upwards,
and accumulates towards the bottom of the virda.
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