Lala Ka Talab – Datia

Let’s Revive The Lala Ka Talab - Datia,
Dying Every Moment Due to Sewage and Pollution, Created by Us...

Rain water harvesting that is usually taken to be a western thought process of the recent times has been a part of the Indian culture since time immemorial. The Bundelkhand region that is presently divided into the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh is a wonderful example of the same. The town of Datia was a part of Orchha state in pre-independence era has some engineering marvels of over 1000 years old constructions proving their thought-process of rainwater harvesting. The otherwise rocky plateau of Datia was designed into a township that remained draught free for almost 1000 years, just for the sake of the visionary plan of the engineers to harvest the rainwater.

Datia – A profile

The rulers of Bundelkhand appear to have taken keen interest in the rainwater harvesting structures. Large numbers of extant structures are there to witness it. The construction of water- bodies assumed particular significance for rulers which would provide a sound and solid base to the economic state. It further necessitated because of geographical and topographical impediments. The region is enormously hilly and rocky with a steep land gradient hence water flows quickly and absorption is quite low. This situation is responsible for the deep water-table and low water resource in the region. The less rainfall further multiplied the problem on the water front. Keeping these difficulties in mind, the Chandela and the Bundela rulers took keen interest in the harvesting of rain-water.

Tanks were constructed in large numbers by the rulers of the Chandela and the Bundela dynasties. At least one tank exists in most of the villages gets confirmation fi”om the inscriptions, gazetteers and the Archaeological survey reports. We also come across more than one tank in some of the villages built by rulers, nobles, traders, banjaras and the other individuals. References of these waterbodies are available in large numbers. Inscriptions and the literary sources mention the construction of waterbodies by Madan Varman (1128-1165), Parmardideva (1165-1203) Vir Varman (1245-1285) and others.

Datia was formerly a part of Orchha state ruled by Maharaja Bir Singh Dev and he had built a fort palace there on the bank of a lake. Later on the pargana was given in jagir to his son Bhagwan Das in 1626 since then it remained in his family and after the demise of Bir Singh Dev it emerged as an independent state.

Datia is a beautifully planned town in the heart of Bundelkhand region of the state of Madhya Pradesh, especially in terms of the water resource planning. The town was planned with a necklace of lakes around it in such a way that the overflow of one lakes used to fill up the other lakes, so as to avoid and drought situation around the year for any part of the town. In local dialect, Datt (दत) means Rock stone, that formed the name Datia (दतया) meaning rocky platue, and therefore the water resources were planned before planning the town in the otherwise unfriendly terrain. The city has seven tanks, namely, Sita Sagar, Karan Sagar, Ram Sagar, Laxman Tal, Lala ka Tal or Bir Sagar. All these waterbodies are connected with each other. The location of these tanks indicates a definite planning. It appears that these waterbodies are dug in descending order. First tank was excavated at comparatively higher plain and then others were excavated in succession at lower sites. All are designed in such a way that a overflow of one tanks fills the tanks located at lower level.

Through linking of waterbodies the hydraulic engineers created a web of tanks. This, in fact, is an ingenious method adopted to collect running surface water into tanks. This area receives good rains and the annual average rainfall is between 60 and 70cm, between 1901 and 1950 the annual rainfall was highest which, was 167 percent. Rainfall has been quite sufficient. Therefore, the hydraulic engineers developed waterbodies accordingly. Their main concern was to tap each and every drop of rain water to be used for irrigating fields, drinking and other domestic purposes. There are some tanks which are linked and make a sankal (chain).

Lala Ka Talab aka Bir Sagar

This waterbody exists in the backside of the fort-palace known as the Satkhanda Mahal or Bir Singh Mahal. The tank was built by Bir Singh Dev at the time when he was the jagirdar of Baroni located 8 km away from Datia. It is an enormous lake. Later, on its bank Bir Singh Dev built the palace in 1620-12. The combined impact of both, create a scene of fairy dreamland. Now local person call this lake the name of Lala-ka-taal.

On the back-side of the embankment or on the comer of the retaining wall there are two wells probably for irrigating surrounding fields. One of the well is still actively used by water Works Department for supplying drinking water to the residents of the area. Behind the retaining wall there is probably an orchard which receives water from this waterbody and produces variety of fruits probably for the members of the royal family.

The lake is man-made and is surrounded by construction work at all four sides, while on one side it has the fort, the other two has religious sites and the fourth has a ghat. Thus engineers encircled the waterbody from three sides. The wall in the eastern direction gets the support of the hillock running parallel to the waterbody. Thus water coming from the southern direction is blocked from three sides. On the basis of the fieldwork a following ground plan is prepared indicating two safety valves, two religious structures and one Ghat. Putting pressure on the safety valves used to release pressure to release water from the Ghat which, would be used for canal irrigation and filling up of the nearby lakes and other waterbodies.

Draughts & waterbodies

More the waterbody, lesser are the chances of draught. A waterbody not just ensures a better rainfall, but enriches the underground aquifer too. Let’s understand the process a bit more for a clearer understanding.

Water heats and cools more slowly than land. Therefore, in the summer, the coastal regions / a region near larger lakes, will stay cooler and in winter warmer. A more moderate climate with a smaller temperature range is created. If there are no bodies of water to moderate the climate the same conditions follow as with vast, flat plains. The climate condition is continental with more extreme temperatures, a larger range, and less precipitation.  With a large waterbody, the water cycle process is strengthened – more evaporation, more condensation and more precipitation, and the end result is more rainfall.

On the other hand the accumulated water in the concaved surface, ensue seepage to the underground aquifers too, enriching the water table below and raising the same. That’s the way all the water bodies are planned. But what plays a spoiled sport is the pollution and the sludge, that deposits in the bottom of the tank and cuts the link between the underground water table and the waterbody. Now with more evaporation, the surface will start decreasing and eventually the waterbody will get converted to a marshland and get encroached.

By cleaning the lakes, what we can do is, re-establish and reinstate the original concept of rainwater harvesting designed flawlessly about 10 centuries ago.

Lala Ka Talab - Datia

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