Ancient, traditional water and agricultural management systems - A collection of papers from the national seminar on water and culture, organised at Hampi, by Sahayoga and Kannada University (2007)

A National Seminar on Water and Culture was organised by Sahayoga and Kannada University between June 25-27 2007. The seminar was intended to provide useful documentation to those working on water and agricultural management systems, those interested in integrating these traditional techniques with modern practices and to those working towards providing sustainable access to water and food, for all common citizens.

With this in mind the seminar had six areas of interest:

  1. Water management in large tanks & small water bodies;
  2. Water management in canal systems based on river diversion & storage systems;
  3. Social needs such as drinking water supply in urban & rural areas;
  4. Historical background of tank & canal systems;
  5. Management of small water bodies through cultural & religious activities;
  6. Miscellaneous matters related to cultural development in the context of water.

The papers range from those studying the deification of water in Indian and other religions, to those studying water management techniques of ancient India and other countries. Some papers compared ancient water management technologies in different parts of India which were still working today, while others pointed out to their state of neglect.

The role of Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) as a technique for equitable water distribution and maintenance of water management systems was also brought out. Reasons for their decline were surprising as they included government ownership and the role of groundwater extraction.

The papers provide a glimpse of a past where water was a common responsibility and where technology was a product of this common responsibility. The need to learn from these ancient techniques to ensure equitable and sustainable water distribution has been eloquently put forth by these papers and presentations.


About the organisers

Kannada University was established in 1992 to teach and conduct research on the Kannada language & literature, epigraphy, folk culture, tribal studies, tradition & visual arts, music.

Sahayoga is a a non-profit, non-government, promotional network organization. It connects professionals, farmers, Government institutions & the general public in the development, conservation & management of natural resources in India - in particular, with water.


About the location

Hampi, was the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire which ruled a major portion of South India during the 14-16th centuries. Situated on the Tungabhadra river, Hampi has also been mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana as Nagari and Pampakshetra. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Besides its magnificent architecture, Hampi was also known for its water management systems. The Maratha king Shivaji is said to have visited Hampi on his way from Mysore to Pune and adopted some of the water management systems in his kingdom. Records show that there were some 18 diversion structures on the Tungabhadra that brought water for domestic purposes and for irrigation. Today some of the agricultural land in this region, still benefits from these ancient water management systems. Therefore it was an apt place to host this National Seminar on Water and Culture.


We thank the organisers - Sahayoga and Kannada University, for making the seminar proceedings available to us and the wider public.


Access the papers here:

  1. Influence of Chalukya architecture on Hampi stepwell
  2. Apotheosis of water and its inevitability in Indian culture
  3. Conservation of urban lakes as potential sources of freshwater
  4. Decline of tank irrigation institutions in South India - A case-study of Tamil Nadu
  5. Glimpses of the historical water bodies in the Vijaynagar dynasty
  6. Preservation of Mysore urban waterbodies
  7. Qanat - Ancient hydraulic structure in Iran
  8. Suranga - A sustainable water resource
  9. Traditional water management practices and water sector reforms in South Asia - A comparative analysis of three systems and PIM Policy
  10. Traditional water management practices in coastal Karnataka
  11. Water and its quality in ancient encyclopedias of Karnataka
  12. Ancient water and soil conservation ecosystems of Sri Lanka – Some aspects
  13. Applicability of traditional wisdom in water management in Konkan region of Maharashtra
  14. Dying wisdom of medieval water management of Aurangabad city
  15. Glimpses of Bhagiratha Vidya - Irrigation engineering in ancient India
  16. Groundwater assessment using remote sensing data - A case study of Bhadra river basin
  17. Ideal historical river water use systems
  18. Idol immersion activities and their management in water bodies in India
  19. Irrigation in India - Management phases and its sustainability
  20. Irrigation tanks and their traditional local management - A remarakable ancient history of India
  21. Khazana Bawali - Historical wisdom needing protection
  22. Palaeochannels as groundwater storage - A promising option to cope with hydro-hazards in Rajasthan
  23. Pampa Sarovara and its environs in Valmiki Ramayana
  24. Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) in Andhra Pradesh - An overview
  25. Revival of swadeshi vedic and traditional wisdom of water
  26. Sethusamudram channel project - An epoch making event
  27. Study of ancient water storage systems on forts in Nashik district of Maharashtra
  28. The two ancient irrigation systems of India   
  29. Water and culture vis-à-vis river diversions  
  30. Water conservation in the dry regions of India for sustainable agriculture
  31. Water management in the Vijaynagar Empire 
  32. Water management systems in the coastal area of Ratnagiri, with special reference to water tanks near temples


Influence of Chalukya architecture on Hampi stepwell