my article: “6 water bodies with a story to tell” is now up at The Alternative. this piece talks about crocodiles, 17th c rain water harvesting and a bubbling tank – amongst other things!
let me know other water bodies with crazy stories that you have come across while traveling or in your city.
pasting the link and text below.
‘Water’ – that’s a wonderful excuse to travel. We do it often, go see a famous waterfall, camp by a blue lake and dive into a clear sea. This is an article about water bodies in India you can visit and experience. But these are not offbeat or different either. They do not promise the blue of Pangong, the translucence of the sea at Andaman’s or the hippie charm of Gokarna. What they do promise is a story – and in most cases, one that leaves me nostalgic about the past. Let’s dive right in.
Tal Katora, Jaipur
Tal Katora is a lake in the middle of the walled city of Jaipur. It seems rather mundane and like any other old structure is surrounded by the harsh impatience of the present, but let me tell you more.
Huge channels once connected this lake to the hills on which Navargarh stands. During the monsoon, the rainwater runoff from these hills would fill up the lake. One local said this was once sufficient to meet the city’s water needs. This was also the recreational area for the rajas of Jaipur, and feeding the crocodiles in this lake was a sport! By the late 20th Century, the lake became very polluted and the collector channels were closed off, but there are plans to restore this lake to its former glory.
Next time you are in Jaipur, visit this tal (lake), with the katora (cup) in the centre. You will be looking at a rainwater harvesting system that was conceived and built in the mid 17th century.
Ananthapura Lake Temple, Kerala
The Ananthapura Lake Temple at Kasargod stands in the middle of a small lake or pond. This is the original seat of the Ananthapadmanabha Swami of Thiruvananthapuram. The temple’s other claim to fame: this is the only lake temple in Kerala. But, that’s not why I’ve brought you here.
The temple’s lake is home to a crocodile called Babia and has been so for around 150 years! When the crocodile dies, another takes its place – no one knows where the new crocodile comes from as there are no rivers or ponds with crocodiles nearby. Legend says that Babia doesn’t harm humans even when they enter the pond. Temple staff claim that the crocodile is a vegetarian and eats only the prasadam from the temple not the fish in the pond – though I find that hard to believe.
It was a spooky experience – all I could see were the eyes jutting out of the water and staring at me. I have no photographic proof so you’ll have to go see for yourself!
Budbudi Tali, Goa
In Netravali village, two hours from Panaji, you will see a rectangular tank next to a rather plain Gopinath temple. If you keep looking at the water you will soon see bubbles rising to the surface. Budbude means bubbles, hence the name Budbudyanchi Tali or Budbude Tali. The bubbles look beautiful as they reach the surface and form concentric circles that ripple across the tank.
What causes these bubbles? I asked around and was told its methane. I learnt that fish won’t survive with methane and there are a lot of fish in this pond. Some scientists have said it could be Sulphur Dioxide or Carbon Dioxide! Short of long – it’s mysterious, as no one knows the reason!
The REAL Hauz Khas, Delhi
The Hauz Khas complex lies nestled behind the glitzy glamour of the designer shops and gourmet restaurants of Hauz Khas village. This complex includes a water tank, madrasa, mosque and some tombs.
Hauz Khas is the name of the water tank – ’Hauz’ in Urdu means water and ’Khas’ means royal. It was built in the 13th century by Alluaddin Khilji to supply water to the people at Siri Fort. Later it was reclaimed and used as agricultural land by the farmers in the village. During the Tuglaq dynasty period, Feroz Shah Tuglaq de-silted the tank, built the madrasa and also his tomb.
Some years ago the tank had dried up again. Due to efforts by INTACH and the Delhi government, this tank and the rest of the monuments have been beautifully restored. This is living heritage for you and me to appreciate and protect.
Lakes of Mumbai
When you think of Mumbai, you think of the grey, dull Arabian Sea. There are no thoughts of any fresh water sources, but Mumbai has or rather had a network of 6 rivers, most of which are reduced to sewage canals now. There are three lakes – Vihar and Tulsi inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Powai Lake just below that.
In 1845, a two-member committee conceived of these lakes due to an acute shortage of drinking water, previously sourced from wells. The catchment areas of the rivers were used to create reservoirs and that lead to the formation of these three lakes. These lakes supply water to Mumbai even today! You need entry permits to access Vihar and Tulsi Lake but Powai Lake is open to all.
Pul Kanjri, Amritsar
Many of you might have visited Wagah Border, but did you visit a step well in the village of Pul Kanjri just before the border? Maharaja Ranjit Singh, famous for sponsoring the gold gilding and marble work at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, built this step well, temple, baradari and mosque.
In those days, this would be where the Raja and his retinue would stop and rest, equidistant from the two towns of Lahore and Amritsar. The baradari is in ruins, but the temple with its beautiful frescoes and this well are in relatively good shape. There are steps on one side of this structure and a sloping road on the other – that was for the animals to access the water.
The name Pul Kanjri comes from the name of the village. And that’s connected to a dancer – Moran. She used to perform for Ranjit Singh. On her way to visit the King she had to cross a canal built by the Mughals. There was no bridge and she lost her silver sandals, a precious gift from the Maharaja. She was upset and refused to perform. The Raja immediately ordered that a pul or bridge be built.
In those days, dancers were called Kanjri so this village was called Pul Kanjri. This village was captured by the Pakistani army in the wars of 1965 and 1971, and recaptured by the Indian army. There is also a memorial to the Jawans nearby.
These are the stories about unusual water bodies in India that I’ve found in my travels. Tell us about all the quirky and historic water places that you have visited – the only caveat: they do not need to be gorgeous, but need to have a lovely story!