Bawadis of Vijayapura (Bijapur) -- historical open wells of 16th and 17th centuries

Taj Bawadi, Bijapur (Vijayapura) Oddroad

The Indian rulers, be they Sultans or Maharajahs centuries ago, rulered their states with vision and foresight. They gave much importance to public works, in particular, supply of potable water to the citizens. They built numerous lakes, water tanks with network of  inter-linking canals covering vast  land in the rain-fed regions. What about dry areas or areas where drought condition was a threat to the people? How did the rulers manage the  regions where the availability of water was poor for agriculture and daily needs? They adopted an ingenious methods to tap and store water. They built what are called  bawadis which served  effectively  in the dry and semi arid areas. Bawadis are big open wells with steps or with out steps.

Vijayapura (previously Bijapur) in Karnataka state  has innumerable bawadis that were built by the rulers of the Adil Shahi dynasty. (1490-16860. According to historian Krishna Kolhar Kulkarni, the city and its surroundings had about 700 stepless wells and 340 bawadis with steps. These historical bawadis, after the fall of Adil Shah dynasty fell into disuse and later became garbage dump sites.  

hoparoundindia.comChand Bawadi, Bijapur.

Until recently, these step wells were in a state of neglect. Credit goes to state minister M.P. Patil, who is in charge of Vijayapura district. He evinced keen interest to revive these ancient wells and mobilised eight crore rupees for the revival project  He wanted to revive 21 huge wells back to old glory.

It is estimated that these huge  water wells  could store enough water to take care the needs of roughly one million people of the city of Bijapur in the 17th century. Among the bawadis built by the Adil Shahi kings,  mention may be made of the bawadis such as - Taj Bawadi, Chand Bawadi, Masa Bawadi, Ilalkhan Bawadi, Nawab Bawadi, etc.  Of these, Taj and Chand Bawadi are quite well-known  and probably the biggest. The depth of the open wells is between 20 to 60 wells while that of Taj bawadi is around 100 feet.

Vijapura (Bijapur) map. Maps of India

 Built in 1620 on the orders of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, in memory of his queen Taj Sultana, Taj Bawadi is the biggest one, flanked by two octagonal towers, and huge domes that surround the square shaped well. A few months ago this huge Taj bawadi - open well  was an eye-sore - almost like a stinking filthy cesspool. Its polluted water was unfit for any use. To day, the story is different; it is rebuilt and restored and it supplies good quality, potable water with hundreds of springs injecting fresh water into it.The Taj bawadi is one of the 21 open wells being revived by the district administration. Cleaning and desilting them was already under taken by them  The other bawadis, including Gunnapur and Pathi bawadis  are being repaired and revived by the administration.

Taj Bawadi, Bijapur Alamy
Above image: Entrance to the Taj Bawadi - open water well built  by Adil Shah in honor of his wife, Taj Sultana.There were several hundred  open wells with steps and without steps built by the Adil Shah dynasty to meet water needs in semi-arid region. Taj bawadi is the biggest one.   ................ 

How come the city of Vijayapura (Bijapur) has so many open  deep wells. Historian Abdul Gani Imratwale is of the opinion that Bijapur in the past centuries frequently experienced drought conditions as it was located in a semi-arid region. So, it dawned upon the Adil Shah kings to build numerous open wells to supply water to the city. For decades these wells supplied potable water to the city centuries ago as predicted by the ruler. 

According to the city commissioner, desilting and cleaning the bawadis is a tough and time-consuming job and it takes  15 to 20 days to clean the small ones. There are 60 bawadis near the city and they need to be cleaned soon to put them to proper use use. The city has a plan to install pump sets and also RO system to meet the people's needs. The city of Vijayapura needs 65 million liters of water a day and the bawadis, if fully revived, would cover 5 MLDs.


01. In 1981-82, attempts were made to desilt the tank and supply water to the residents from Taj Bawadi. Unfortunately, the project did not see the light since the water in the well was not fit for drinking.
02. There are underground tunnels built between these wells  and they ensured  steady supply of water to all pockets of the city. 

03. Built by Ali Adil Shah in 1579 and named in memory of  his queen Chandbibi, Chand bawadi  is  yet another famous  open well.  Unlike Taj Bawadi, the premises of Chand Bawadi are better taken care of. "If these bawadis are cleaned, and desilted, they would help solve the district's drinking water problem," said Krishna Kolharkulkarni, another historian.