travelBLOGueThe theme of this year's World Heritage Day is the Cultural Heritage of Water. Over the last 5,000 years of Gujarat's civilization, the region has inspired extensive water management systems, many of which are still in use today. The ingenious and varied
Celebrating World Heritage DayBy The India Guide Team
The theme of this year's World Heritage Day is the Cultural Heritage of Water. Over the last 5,000 years of Gujarat's civilization, the region has inspired extensive water management systems, many of which are still in use today. The ingenious and varied methods of storing water arose in response to the semi-arid climate, seasonal fluctuations and cultural practices of the region.
The western region of India, especially Gujarat, is known for its vavs (stepwells), subterranean and often shaded water storage systems which collected water and provided respite from the heat to locals and travelers. Many of these stepwells also represent some of Gujarat’s richest architectural heritage. Adalaj ni Vav (just outside Ahmedabad) and Ranki Vav (in Patan) are two of the best known stepwells in Gujarat’s. Adalaj ni Vav descends five stories and is elaborately decorated with carved beams, columns and brackets. Ranki Vav resembles an underground city with seemingly endless steps and walls that narrate hundreds of stories through stunning carvings and relief work. Around the corner from Ranki vav are the remains of the Sahasraling talav, a complex reservoir network of inlets and a cistern.
Gujarat is scattered with talavs or sarovars. These are manmade water bodies that retain water for use in bathing, washing and other daily activities. At Champaner in eastern Gujarat you can examine some of these talavs and their role in medieval water management. Champaner’s complex water conservation system was established in the late 1400s, by Mahmud Begada, one of the rulers of the Gujarat Sultanate who is renowned for his contribution to the architecture of the region. Several talavs are situated at different elevations across the citadel, ensuring that excess run-off is captured.
Another feature of traditional water management systems are kunds, or water storage tanks, often found at mosques and temples where they are used for ritualistic cleansing prior to worship. The Surya Kund, part of the sun temple complex at Modhera, is just one example of superior water engineering coupled with exquisite craftsmanship.
In addition to such community-based initiatives, individual households also developed their own methods of water conservation. The monsoon brought a concentrated number of days of heavy rain and systems such as rainwater harvesting would ensure access to water long after the monsoon had passed. In Ahmedabad’s old city, nearly every household had a rainwater harvesting systems where water was collected on the rooftops and channeled into underground storage tank, often connected with an indoor well. To see an example you can visit the Mangaldas ni Haveli in Ahmedabad.
A basic and common means for storing and cooling water in Gujarat is the matka (earthenware pot). Matkas are made from porous clay, which absorbs the warmer water as it evaporates, leaving the remaining water a pleasant temperature to drink. Matkas are still very common in most households and you will see them dotted across cities, towns and villages, keeping water cool and readily available for visitors and passersby.
Today is friendly reminder to celebrate water and to conserve this life-force for the generations that follow.
Posted on: Apr 17, 2011