The well diggers of Bangalore – a craft in renaissanceJune 10, 2013
Well digging has been the forte of the ‘Mannu Vaddar’ community in Bangalore. They are the people who work with earth for many centuries. They have dug the many lakes of Bangalore and also the many wells that dotted the landscape. Then their cousins the ‘Kallu Vaddars’ would take over and line the well with stones . The craft is at least 6000 years old in India.
The stone lined wells of South Karnataka
Since the 1980 ‘s , especially during a period of 3 continuous years of bad rainfall, the construction of wells stopped and people shifted to the bore-wells. This rendered the well diggers jobless and they shifted to digging foundations for buildings as well as digging pits for toilets.
With the recent rainwater harvesting interest in the city and the coming in of the bye-law , wells are being dug again, only this time to recharge water from the rooftops and from storm water drains.
Muniyappa – is now known as ‘Bhavi’ Muniyappa or Well Muniyappa in Bangalore
People like Muniyappa have dug more than 2000 recharge wells . He is a legend in the community. Of course strong competition has cropped up and there are many more well diggers in Bangalore.
A good policy , such as the rainwater harvesting policy , introduced in Bangalore not only works for ecological benefits such as increasing the groundwater table , preventing floods , supplementing the water needs of citizens but also provides social benefits such as work to many well diggers. This is truly the ‘green economy’ kicking in and traditional crafts being revived.
Even though the well mentioned by Mr Balsubramanian is more than 30 years old he still remembers Arumugham who dug it for him, everyday he says.
The memory of the well is crucial to Bangalore. On groundwater will depend the city s future. Well diggers and the recharge wells they dig will become the water warriors of the city. Time to salute ’em.