miscellany

Well that quenched an army’s thirst

Four centuries ago the Bijapur Adilshahis are said to have dug a 150-feet deep well, more than 20 feet wide, to provide drinking water to their army columns on what is locally known as Dandin Dari  (Army’s Route). The area around, till the advent of the Malaprabha irrigation system, was dry, barren and in a state of wilderness (and hence the name).

Today, it is a green, cultivated earth. The Dandin Dari generally ran, as evidenced by local knowledge, from Bijapur in North Karnataka southward towards the Tungabhadra via Mudhol, Yadvad, Saundatti, Dharwad etc. That alignment for the most part now has either been converted into State/district roads or covered under the Grameen Sadak Yojna.

The well lies about 18 kilometres north of Saundatti, off the Saundatti-Gokak Road. On this inconspicuous village road (dandin dari), all by itself, disused, unseen and uncared for, and in advanced stage of dilapidation but still strong, the well stands testimony to excellent engineering. One wonders about the knowledge and skills of engineers of those days to find water at that depth, the method used in excavation of that huge quantity of earth, and technology used in setting cut stones and building walls more than 150-feet deep in that gaping pit.

These walls are still fully intact though no cement or such holding material was available then. Of the four arches, typical Adilshahi ones as archeologists identify, two are covered with rising water consequent to irrigation system spreading around. To reach even the present raised water level one has to descend a hundred steps. In the olden days, as early as the 1960s the steps descended to the level where water rose from the rocks below the first arch - more than 150 steps.

There is no mention of Dandin Dari or Aragada Bhavi in any correspondence, gazetteer, maps or documents, except in local awareness of the route and physical presence of the well, though both were used by the later Marathas to go south and the British on their conquest north after Tipu’s defeat. Today, the well has gone bone dry exposing its bed in the netherworld. Yet, it is also a magnificent monument of erstwhile engineering skills.
Lt Gen Sardeshpande

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