Faculty: Meghal Arya

Traditional water structures as public space

The chowks, the bazaars and the religious monuments are well-known examples of public places in Indian cities. A
lesser researched and studied building type is the water structure, part of the traditional water infrastructure system.
Many of the historic structures are neglected and abandoned. They were however, vibrant public spaces like the well
recorded Roman baths or the fountains in Roman cities that marked public squares, nodes and became landmarks in
the city. The spatial organization, location, response of the urban fabric around, scale and presence of other elements
like trees and otlas indicate that many of the water structures were also places of social engagement like the Great
Bath of Mohenjodaro. As Kosambi mentions, that it “cannot have been for mere cleanliness, for every house had
excellent bathrooms and good wells and the Indus flowed past the citadel mound.”(66). The ghats on the banks of
rivers like the Ganga were places of important rituals. Mapping of some of the wells of Jodhpur in 2021 indicates that
they continue to contribute to the creation of public urban spaces in the city, as they become nodes of social activity
while collecting water for everyday life.
The principal academic concept of the research is the existence of a deep and ancestral relation of the water structures
with people which contributes to their resilience. For a critical and authentic understanding of the Indian city, it is
important to be able to record these, and make them available for future policy, physical planning and urban design.
With this background, this study pursues the theme of public urban spaces created by traditional water infrastructure
in and around historic city centres in India, borrowing theoretical and analytical premises suggested by various
authors, including previous student research. It is purposely to be designed to articulate how these water elements are
deeply entrenched within the Indian urban fabric, and continue to hold a significant value in the lives of people.

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