Can you get water to flow uphill?

Science and technology of water harvesting and management in the medieval fort of Kalinjar in central India

Shivam Tripathi (PI), Naren Naik, Javed Malik and Bhuvan Vikrama


Water bodies in the Kalinjar fort. (a) Ram Katora and (b) Connected surface ponds 

The shortage of useful water has been a widespread problem in India, and its prevalence and relevance even today indicates that practical economic solutions are urgently needed to be conceptualized and applied. A lot has to be learned about the science and technology of water harvesting and management of Central Indian medieval forts. For example, Deloche (2008) studied the surface and subsurface water sources in hill forts on the peninsular plateau, south of the Tungabhadra River. Using examples of battles between the Marathas and the Mughals, it is claimed that these water sources had an influence on the growth and decline of kingdoms in South India, before the 19th century. This study aims to find the reasons for - (a) the presence of subsurface water in the depressions of the hills and (b) the perennial availability of water in some ponds at the foot of the hills. It describes various natural and artificial ponds located in the region and accompanying water distribution systems. Finally, the presence of subsurface water is attributed to the foliated arrangements of the granitic soil, and the presence of pond water to both surface runoff and subsurface water. The study further acknowledges that due to the ‘observation of chaotic heaps of boulders and debris’, quantification of groundwater depth was not possible, requiring hydrologic study by experts to answer these aspects of water management.

The proposed study aims at understanding the importance and state of hydrological science in medieval India and technical know-how of their engineers in management of water as a resource. The proposal is to answer the following questions by carrying out a detailed hydrological investigation of the Kalinjar fort, a representative medieval fort of Central India and also aims to collect historical documents, literature and assimilate our present understanding of the topic. The knowledge accumulated will be used to develop a short course on the science and technology of water harvesting and management of medieval forts. The study is aimed at finding out:

  1. What was the role of hydrology in selection of fort sites?
  2. How were the surface and sub-surface water harvesting bodies designed and maintained?
  3. What were the measures adopted to mitigate the effects of hydrological extremes?
  4. How was the water distributed and drained within a fort premise?