Telangana Step Wells

A grand stepwell at Kichanapally, Sangareddy
Imagine being in an arid, parched part of the youngest State of India. You badly want water, but all  you see is miles of nothingness. And suddenly you find several flights of stairs leading to water.

No, its not a mirage! These are ‘step wells’ - wonderful structures that are now virtually forgotten.

Stepwells in Telangana are found at old forts, temple complexes and on agricultural lands. They have also been political power centres.

They are in a shambles and in a state of disuse. According to official records, there are just 41 of these in the State.

In contrast, a team of Hyderabad Design Forum (HDF), a guild of architects with an archaeological bent of mind headed by architect A.R. Yeshwant , that undertook a three-week survey found 75 more of such step wells, across the State with the exception of the twin cities and Mahabubnagar district.

“More than just research, our aim is to truly understand and document the stepwells of Telangana, which are being ignored. There has been no documentation of these ancient step wells, until now,”

Ramamurthy says he came across a beautiful stepwells by accident at Kichenapalli in Sangareddy district. “I was astounded by its scale and brilliance of its architecture. There are pavilions and the construction is very robust,” he said.

There are several step wells, many unprotected, within forts in Warangal and other places, which were constructed to supply water to the inhabitants and for agricultural purposes. They were also the sole sources of relief when forts would be under siege – for months. “Over the next two months, we will identify 100 stepwells and document the period in which they were constructed,” Mr Ramamurthy added.
The HDF focussed on three of them for a closer analysis - Rachakonda in Narayanpur mandal of Nalgonda district and Kolanpaka in Aler mandal,  Raigir in Bhongir mandal of Yadadri district.

Once restored, they could be integrated with the Telangana government’s Mission Kakatiya programme of restoring tanks and wells in the State to see that they could store water during monsoon. He hastened to add though, that it was too early to be talking of the extent of land they could irrigate.

The immediate benefits of such a drive would be that they would have water that could be used for drinking too, considering that on an average, each of them holds about 24 lakh litres.

“There is a scientific angle too. During Bathukamma, women play with floral decorations and they finally immerse them in the nearest water source - in this case, these wells. Natural beauty agents in these flowers dissolve in the water and purify it, giving them medicinal properties,” he said.

The HDF heard other interesting tales. There was a ‘dongala baavi’ (well of thieves) in Medak district where robbers would split the loot at night and a ‘Sringara baavi’ which the legendary Rani Rudrama Devi would visit at night for her beauty bath, disguised as a boy!