World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living
Sam Hawksmoor
New mystery fiction


••• The International Writers Magazine - 24 Years on-line - UNESCO Heritage City

Heritage walk through Ahmedabad
• Noyonika Banerjee
Water was the key to freedom for this city


Ahmedabad in Western India is now an UNESCO World Heritage city. I  decide to visit the 17th century built, Hatkeshwar Temple, located in the old city of Ahmedabad. This temple's inner sanctum houses a “shivling” (Ancient black coloured rock) said to have self-emerged. From the roof of the sanctum sanctorium a massive tower soars high into the sky. Facing east, the temple is enclosed by a high wall topped by three circular domes, in traditional Hindu temple-styled architecture. Located in the walled city, this ancient temple is located inside a narrow lane (pol in Gujarati) and is accessible only on foot. The entrance to this structure is made of hand-carved teak wood and the intricate designs showcase the history of  over six hundred years of delicate workmanship.

Hatkeshwar As I walk through the narrow bylanes of this heritage city, U enjoy the slow pace of life and the community spirit seen in the pols. After enjoying the walk, I travel to the historic Mahatma Gandhi Ashram, where handmade recycled paper is sold. I purchase a copy of “Nature Cure” at the Ashram and also enjoy the street art depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi on the outer walls of the Gujarat Vidhyapeeth located near the Ashram, where I am introduced to Dinaben who is compiling the collected works of Mahatma Gandhi.
After enjoying the street art, I asked Dinaben about the environmental problems facing Ahmedabad. Dinaben kindly replied: "Our problem has always been water. To understand  the problem better, I am going to show you our traditional rainwater harvesting techniques used by the locals since the last six centuries." Dinaben took me to stay in a traditional joint family house whose open courtyard was the community gathering place, and soon the neighbouring residents invited me into their homes. As Ahmedabad is on the edge of a desert known as the "Little Rann of Kutch", summers are harsh and the city receives only 60 days of rain. The Sabarmati River, which runs through the city, is a rain-fed river.
Temple Art

When I found out that it almost doesn't rain, I asked the local residents: "How do you get water if it doesn't rain?" The residents immediately replied: "Each house collects rainwater by building large underground tanks in the courtyard where the sloping roofs would redirect all the rainwater. The oldest and largest houses had 15 metre deep water tanks, which could hold up to 70,000 litres. of rainwater and which could contain six months' water needs for the locality. Each house was interconnected with the others through joint terraces and secret passageways known only to the locals and the water was transported to each house by teams of community volunteers." While I listened to the local resident in amazement, he continued to explain the story.

Each locality, known as "pol" in the local language, had large wooden gates like a fort, which could be locked from the inside and prevent strangers from entering. However, local residents could transport water and food across the pols through their terraces and secret paths used in ancient times to transport water.

Resistance to British rule came from  people who live inside the big gate who barricaded themselves like a fort and were able to hold out for several years as the water never ran out. Food was grown in pots on the terraces and several years' worth of grains such as millet and wheat were stored in giant ancient copper and brass containers, enough to last for years.

The community spirit and joint family system ensured neighborhood cooperation and the British found it impossible to find any spies or informers among the locals, so they used cannons and destroyed all the doors of these pols. However, the British could not control the minds and hearts of the locals and had to leave India in 1947. Each local house respects water conservation and had an underground water tank to store several months' worth of water.

In the summer months, teams of volunteers distributed water from the largest tanks to individual houses and made sure that each house received enough water during the summer and winter. Neither house had showers or bathtubs. During the rains, all the neighbors collected water in empty copper and brass utensils and used them, without dipping into their reserves.

Bathing in community ponds and wells had become a way of life for the locals. I was fascinated by the locals' stories of water conservation and how India gained its freedom through the collective wisdom of local residents, who printed and distributed anti-British pamphlets by sewing them into cotton mattresses and transporting them across Gujarat. Like the foolish British guards, who would not rip open these cotton mats to search, as they could never imagine in their wildest dreams that the cotton mattresses could be used to hand out leaflets.

As Ahmedabad is an extremely sunny and windy place,  a large wind and solar farm, and cloud seeding  can solve the water problem by increasing the frequency of the long-awaited rain. With the wind and solar farms, more jobs can be created and at the same time, the water problem of the city of Ahmedabad can be solved.
© Noyonika Banerjee 1/3/23

More travel

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2023 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility -
no liability accepted by or affiliates.