A multitude of hydraulic structures working in different combinations catered to the water need of the urbanisms in the Deccan, in historic times.  Water was tapped from various sources - reservoirs, dams, wells etc.- and conveyed, using ingenious combinations of hydraulic structures, to the agricultural and inhabited areas. The combination that was most suited to the different Deccani topographies was chosen for this purpose. 

A description of some of the historic hydraulic systems noticeable in the Deccan are described as follows:

Bavadi/Stepped wells are rectilinear ground excavations, usually stone lined ground, accessed by a series of steps that lead all the way from the surface of the earth to the floor of the excavation. Bavadis are mostly associated with water lifting devices.  Construction of a stepped access to water was a practical response to the fluctuating water levels in the bavadi – high water levels in monsoons and the very low levels in dry summer months. Except for the arches and niches in the structure, the bavadis in the Deccan region are unadorned unlike early examples seen in north-western India. Arches have been used for decoration and to mark stairway landings. Blind arches are used on the side masonry walls for reinforcement.

Dams: Several embankments  of mud or stone were constructed in the course of seasonal streams in strategic locations, often in a series, to collect and store water especially during the monsoons[1]. Sometimes, early mud embankments were strengthened with stone masonry during subsequent periods. Constructed along these embankments were manually operated sluice gates to control the quantity of water that was distributed to the agricultural and populated areas.

Wells, like bavadis are ground excavations lined in stone masonry. They are either circular, square or octagonal in plan. Wells do not have stairways to access water levels and are smaller in diameter than bavadis. Wells, like bavadis, consist of a recessed platform along its edge to hold the lifted water. Wells are, often  referred to as bavadi by the people.

Conduits made of terracotta were commonly in use to distribute water sometimes interrupted by water-towers or Gunj to relieve the pressure in the pipes, prevent clogs thereby increasing water pressure. These water-towers are commonly seen in Bijapur. 

The Qanat system is yet another practice followed in some parts of the Deccan (Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Bidar, Burhanpur, Aurangabad etc). These are horizontal subterranean channels that helped tap, convey and distribute ground water over large areas. Originally a technology from ancient Persia, this was adapted to suit the local climate and geology.

This website primarily focuses on the qanat/karez hydraulic system, details of which are provided in the following pages.