Why discuss Rainwater Harvesting in India?
In India, rainwater harvesting is an ancient tradition. From as far back as 4500 BC, the simplest of earthworks in Thar Desert and Rajasthan, would harvest water from the falling rain. These simplest forms of rainwater harvesting would evolve in accordance to the eco-regions within India’s borders. Using rivers, floods, monsoon, underground rivers, surface water and the earth itself, the ancient cast of pallar (water managers) have been respected for thousands of years. Rainwater harvesting in India is more than an age old tradition that varies from region to region, rainwater harvesting is an integral part of Indian identity and cultural history, that without, India would never have been.
Vedic culture did not create rainwater harvesting as it was already being done (although rudimentary still quite effective) in the Thar and Rajasthan deserts long before the Harappan civilization in 2600 BC. Monsoon has a way of dictating how life in any given region will profit from determined amounts of rainfall. Once construction techniques began to improve, more elaborate structures could be undertaken to access water management issues in creative and innovative ways. Not only household water needs, but also farm and irrigation in even the most remote places such as the Thar Desert. To this very day, wells known as “kuis” or “beris” that collect fallen rainwater and prevent evaporation still exist, were first built by caravan travelers that had determined routes through the desert.
More developed wells called “kundis” or “kunds” are still used for drinking water, while “bundela” and “chandela” tanks with steps leading down into them were surrounded by pavilions, gardens, orchards to glorify the king. The type of rainwater harvesting techniques used in India, vary in accordance to the region. In northern India the Himalayan regions use glacier water and artificial glaciers to have water year round. The western Himalayan region which gives life to the Ganga also uses similar ditch technologies to replenish the underground flow of water and produce massive agriculture in an otherwise desolate area. The Thar Desert is an exceptional example of ingenuity and sustainability in low-tech communities. But ingenuity and creativity are what mark most about any region in India, as the solutions have time and time again come from the climatic and geographical conditions in which peoples had found themselves and still find themselves to this very day.
Whether they are harvesting rain from their rooftops, or courtyards, open community lands from artificial wells, monsoon run-off from the water of swollen streams or stored in various bodies or even harvest water from flooded rivers. Rainwater harvesting managers, called “pallar” are an officially recognized cast in India that deserves respect and honor. Usually “pallar” inherit their skills, and perform their service usually in accordance to region. The pallar are not trained in great universities from around the world, much less any inside of India, the pallar learn their abilities from one generation to the next and the most important part of engineering itself, experience. Years of careful observation on a day to day basis, when water needs effect everyday life, and even survival, their creative minds invent solutions that bridge the frontier of time and technology. Ingenuity and creativity in such largely diverse scales are responsible for the plethora of innovative ideas that come from this humble Indian cast.
Prehistoric India brought rainwater harvesting solutions as modern day India also does. These solutions which are diverse and innovative bring new insight into the world of rainwater harvest the world over. Insights that should be studied, and understood, not merely as a science but as cultural identity and a way of thinking thatâ€™s roots can be traced to antiquity. As India has so many different regions, it also confronts many different solutions for such a basic and essential human need as a single drop of water. Flood water, post-monsoon drought, underground river collectors, surface water aqueducts, and even evaporation proof community wells for drinking as well as irrigation and other methods of rainwater harvesting; the ancient art of Indian pallar is a tradition that should be respected and understood by anyone interested in better and more ecological ways to use the sky-gift of natural rain.