Quenchers of your thirst

Quenchers of your thirst

Quenchers of your thirst

The summer season is at its peak and weather has turned hot and dry. It becomes difficult to go out in the sun after nine in the morning. In districts like Vijayapura, where heatwaves are common in the months of April and May, life gets affected to a large extent. Now, the temperature here has crossed 40° Celcius. Hence, it becomes essential to drink water frequently to regulate body heat.

Clean drinking water
Unavailability of drinking water is one of the major problems people face here, especially those who work outdoors. Rural people who come to the city for work also struggle to get potable water. Realising the need for clean drinking water in public places, many organisations in Vijayapura have set up aravatiges or traditional free water dispensers.

One such arrangement can be seen near Siddeshwara shrine, located at the heart of the city. Set up by the management of Siddeshwara Cooperative Bank, this aravatige has been catering to the drinking water requirements of people for the last one decade. The staff of the bank have placed four clay pots and refill them when they get empty. In a day, they normally fill the pots seven to eight times. They have also placed cups and glasses for the use of public.

In the crowded Mahatma Gandhi Road of Vijayapura, we can see such drinking water facilities in three to four places. In the city bus stand, aravatige has been kept two months ago. Here, as the crowd is more, two huge mud water containers (called haravu) are placed. Each container can accommodate about three pots of water.

Munnabhai Jahagirdar, a volunteer who fills water in these containers once in every two hours, feels that such arrangements are useful particularly for poor people who can’t afford to buy bottled water.

Generally, the containers are filled with water at around nine in the night so that people get cool water the next day. They are also covered with a wet jute bag or cloth. Once the stored water becomes empty, Jahagirdar cleans the container and fills water from a nearby drinking water tap. If the tap runs dry, he depends on tankers for water supply.

For common people, particularly those from rural areas, these aravatiges have become a place to quench their thirst with clean water and take a small break before continuing with their work or heading back to their houses or villages.

Knowing the plight of people, all these volunteers consider this as their responsibility to offer clean water to the thirsty. There are many such benevolent individuals and organisations who have been maintaining aravatiges in different places of the city — near public offices, places of faith, markets etc. “Having a water in a hotel too is almost next to impossible here, as one would have to place an order for at least tea to get a glass of water. That is why these aravatiges become important,” says Ramesh Badiger, a resident of the city.

“We can’t afford to buy drinking water. The efforts of good-hearted people to maintain aravatiges, ensuring water availability throughout the day, touches our heart. Poor and rural people are especially benefitted from such gestures,” says Shivaji More.

Age-old tradition
Aravatiges are not new to the State as this tradition has been practised for ages now and has become an integral part of our culture. In the olden days, these aravatiges were set at strategic places to quench the thirst of travellers. In some places, along with water, buttermilk and a finger millet drink were also supplied.

In fact, a small patch of land was earmarked for this in each village and the responsibilities were either shared or people would come forward voluntarily to maintain the facility. They also acted as resting places with either a roof or a huge shady tree. Through their benevolence and concern for the society, some persons and their aravatiges became iconic, references to which can be seen in literature.

However, aravatiges soon declined in popularity as many were no longer using them. Through these efforts, the tradition has been revived in different parts of the State.

Some people in Vijayapura also keep water for birds in summer as many birds die due to lack of water and food. They keep water-filled cement structures called bird baths in their compound. One can see birds cooling themselves in these bird baths.  
(Translated by AP)