Water for thirsty travellers!
Sources of water in olden days!
In the olden days, women had to trudge for miles just to get water from tanks, ponds or wells. They carried earthen or brass pots on their heads or on their waist. Going to collect water was a tedious job but it was a social gathering for women folk at a certain time of the day!
In Gujarat, as well as in Rajasthan, kings and merchants built many step wells for the common folk.
Wells of different sizes and shapes are found in Rajasthan and Gujarat. They are known by different names – kunds, kundis, naoris, vav, vavdi, baoli, bavadi etc. Many of these were step wells. Various sculptures and inscriptions are found on the walls of these step wells.
Jhalaras are underground rectangular water tanks. These have steps on 3 or 4 sides, built at various levels. Water is meant for community bathing and religious rites. It is not used for drinking. Water seeps into the tank from nearby surface water bodies. The oldest jhalara, the Mahamandir Jhalara, is located in Jodhpur.
Many temples in South India have temple tanks. Rain water collects in temple tanks. These are places where people gather on auspicious occasions.
A long time ago, step wells were built outside villages on important trade routes. These were resting places for thirsty, weary travellers. Patan, in the north of Saurashtra, on the sea coast was an important military and trade route. This route had many step wells on the wayside for the travellers. Local people also the water in the bawris.
What do you do for water when you go out on a very hot summer day? In Delhi, the Paniwala sell-water from a hand – pulled tin carriage. He will add a dash of lemon if you want it! These people stand near bus stops and busy shopping places. A wise person buys water. Otherwise, one could end up with severe sunstroke. There are also piaos in Northern India. Water is stored in huge earthen pitchers on the wayside and at temples. Any thirsty person can drink cool water from it.
When thirsty, we all known what you would do. Buy a plastic bottle of fresh mineral water from the nearest store!
Adalaj Wav step well
Famous step wells
Rajon Ki Baoli (Baoli of the Kings) is an old step well in Delhi. It collected rain water. It's 1arched' cells on three sides provided a resting place for weary travellers. Now that the well is dry, it is called Sookhi Baoli! Nearby is the Gandhak Baoli. It gives out a strong smell of sulphur. Both these famous step wells e located in Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
The step well of Bundi (Rajasthan) have intricate designs on the walls. Every step has Lord Ganesha on one side and Goddess Saraswathi on the other. Bundi has so many step wells that it has been nicknamed the `City of step Wells!
Adalaj Wav, near Ahmedabad, is s step well built in 1499. flowers and birds adorn its walls. It has five storeys and three gates to enter it. It was a resting place for travellers and caravans.
At the lowest level is the cool water of the step well. It also has an ami Khumb (pot) that contains the water of life and a kalpa vriksha (tree of life) made out of a single stone slab. Villagers throng here on auspicious occasions and during religious festival days.