A groundwater civilization – the history of the well

December 28, 2012

A constant point from me is that India has been and continues to be a groundwater civilization. As early as the Harappan civilization (Indus-Saraswati) wells were the primary means of drawing water . Wells also apparently were used as a form of purifying water with the earth as a filter.Image

Well at Lothal – possibly 2650 B.C.

It is quite amazing to see wells in the Harappan excavations , at Sarnath and at Konarak. Each with its own character based on soil and groundwater conditions.

The well at Lothal was one time close to a river and had to cope with floods. Now the river and the sea have receded and there is high salinity in the area. It therefore has to skim the surface rainwater from a maximum depth of 20 feet.


Wedge shaped bricks have been developed to give the well stability and it has been lined by pottery rings in Bengal and Orissa. The well gives us 24/7 water and also water without electricity.

The well talks to us telling us summer is coming and that one has to be careful with the water that one uses. It is both a functional device providing water as well as a communicator of the scarcity of ecological resource that is water.

The well has perhaps been humankinds first effort at accessing water through ingenuity and effort. Previous access being through natural sources. A hole in the ground yielding water must have liberated us from the tyranny of rivers and lakes.

This would have been also where agriculture which was rain-fed could now be supplemented and thus was born the first technology the pulley. The pulley later on became the wheel .

The well is a fascinating construct and more as and when one explores this beautiful thing.Image

At Lothal..another well next to a drain.

The ornamentation and the architecture followed when there was enough accumulated capital with kings to invest like the Rani-ni-Vaav at PatanPatan 106

Here for example is a well not on an individuals land but on community land . The waters are shared and farmers have come to an understanding as to who can use it and how. This is a shared community resource but with greater knowledge perhaps even more sustainable use is possible.

Community owned wells and sharing of groundwater, Rajasthan.

 Here is another example from when a well used to be dug in Bangalore. With rainwater harvesting the gentleman has revived it and is getting 24/7 water at Rs 2.50 a kilo-litre. Ecological, sustainable,economical and with full stakeholder participation and ownership of water

Recharging and reviving an open well in Bangalore through rainwater harvesting

This open well at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore was abandoned and its memory lost. When revived and cleaned it now produces more than 90 % of the water required by the establishment.

Cleaning and reviving an old open well in Bangalore

and this bit of news sent on twitter by a friend on the oldest well in the world

The oldest well in the world -9000 years old from Syria  and one from Israel with this quote

“Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a well dating back to the Neolithic period some 8,500 years ago, Israel’s Antiquities Authority said on Thursday, adding that two skeletal remains were found inside.

The well, discovered in the Jezreel Valley in the northern Galilee region, contained a variety of artefacts, as well as the remains of a woman approximately 19 years old, and an older man, the IAA said. ”


This homage to the freedom fighters of 1857 is also emblematic of the well   http://www.indianexpress.com/news/well-where-british-buried-1857-martyrs-to-be-dug-remains-immersed-in-ganga/1054408/0



  1. Absorbing … I’ve known for sometime your committment to envornment, especially water and its usage. My respect…

  2. Reblogged this on verum intus, fulsi vacuus and commented:
    Because this is important …

  3. thank you Sir.

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