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Irrigation and Water Supply System Under Vijayanagara Empire – A Talk By Ratnakar Sadasyula


The greatest achievements were in the field
of irrigation and water supply. When everybody goes to Hampi they see it has
great temples, great palaces and all but one achievement of Vijayanagara empire is not
known to many. It was of irrigation and water supply network and this is I take it as one of their greatest achievements. Why? Because Hampi was in a very rocky region,
which doesn’t have any water. If you visit Hampi, it’s a pretty rocky
area. Just the Tungabhadra River is flowing there
but apart from that, there is no water source and Tungabhadra is also not a perennial river
like Ganga, it is like a typical rain flood river. So there was no consistent water supply. And so where was such a massive city like
Hampi going to get the water from? Where was such a massive city like Hampi it
had to get the water from somewhere? And that was one Deva Raya’s achievement. He realised that because of the lack of water
it was affecting the farming as well as the water supply to Vijayanagara. First thing what he did was across the Tungabhadra
dam, he build a huge dam. He had the foresight to see that, you know
storing the water, so he build a very huge dam across the Tungabhadra river and you know
like bought elephants to transport the boulders, put them across the Tungabhadra river and
build a barrage and that helps to store the water, it help to irrigate the fields. This was something pretty visionary in those time. Looking at storing water, conserving it. And like I told you can see the picture, like
these were some of the canals that were in use. If you can see the picture there, these were
some of the canals that were in use during Vijayanagara time that carried the water right
into Hampi. Other major problem was the drinking water
now. Hampi was in very rocky location. Completely surrounded by boulders and all. Water had to be bought to Hampi. So, to satisfy the needs of its people, he
had to bring the water from the lakes and the rivers to Hampi. So, he build a massive aqueduct I mean, most
of these are in ruins, if you can see the picture down. Most of these aqueducts are in ruins. I mean we know about the Roman aqueducts and
all that but unfortunately not much is said about the aqueducts build by the Vijayanagara
Empire which were an equally impressive feat of engineering. So, he build the aqueducts. Tungabhadra was around 24 kms away from Hampi. So he build those aqueducts like you have
seen the picture that would bring water from the Tungabhadra River to Hampi, all the way
along which was pretty much a great feat of engineering. Pretty much massive, impressive feat of engineering. Supplying water to an entire city, and mind
you Hampi was not a small city, it was a massive city. Supplying water to this people in a region
which didn’t have water supply which was completely rocky, that was a stupendous feat of engineering. Fine, and what he did was like this, during
Deva Raya’s time Hampi emerged or Vijayanagara emerged as one of the largest cities in the
world because of the regular water supplies to Hampi, Vijayanagara soon became a flourishing
centre for trade and commerce because water was coming, people could concentrate on the
trade and commerce and of course like it helped the farmers also. Fine. So this is one major achievement of the Vijayanagara Empire. See, this is like one of the major smaller canals. This was like the canals inside the city which
actually flowed from one home to other home. Outside, it was pretty larger canals. I don’t know the exact technical details of
the dimensions. See basically this has the larger canals bringing
water into the city and then split it into smaller canals like this. So it was a pretty much advanced kind of water
supply system that was actually being build out here, as you can see here. Unfortunately, again most of the canals and
aqueducts are pretty much in ruins now. You can see some places like these here and
there that’s all. Aqueduct is not exactly a canal. It is a canal but it carries water above the
ground. The canal is like, it’s carrying along the
ground. So the aqueduct is like the reason, the government
aqueducts. You can say kind of pipelines. The reason why I tell you the aqueducts were built was, Hampi if you take, it’s built on an elevated location. So to bring the water from Tungabhadra River,
these aqueducts are needed. The lifting water, they had a kind of gating
system where the water would flow into one lock into another lock then lifting into the
aqueducts. I know I’m not that much aware of the technical
details in that case. But there was that kind of gate locking system
or the gating system where they use to send water from one chamber to another chamber and then putting it and lift it into the aqueduct and build it along. It was actually not just at Hampi you know,
actually many places in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana now, they have many old lakes, many old lakes
which are built by the Vijayanagara rulers. Especially in the surrounding areas, the area called as the Rayalseema area which is a pretty rocky area. It’s a pretty rocky and dry area. You have pretty of these huge tanks which
are built by the rulers essentially for saving the water.

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