Hyderabad runs for Bidar heritage

Published Nov 5, 2014, 6:25 am IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
Hyderabadis in Heritage Run at Bidar, once a part of Hyderabad

Bidar: The past weekend, many Hyderabadis drove 145 km to the fort-town of Bidar in Karnataka to take part in two initiatives of GoUnesco. GoUnesco, a Unesco-supported initiative, works towards making heritage sites fun.

On Sunday morning, the participants from Hyderabad jogged in and around the Bidar fort as part of the Heritage Run and learnt about the historical significance of the area, which was a part of the Hyderabad state till 1956.


Jogging made way for trekking and even crawling in a matter of hours. Participants were taken inside a cave-like structure in Naubad, by an expert to explore and understand the wisdom of medieval engineering.

The cave was dark, damp, cold and smelt strongly of something sulphuric, which the expert later casually explained as  “bats’ urine.” Twenty meters ahead, the den started narrowing.   What seemed like a cave, was basically an entrance,  to an underground water harvesting system that fed the area for centuries, before it was abandoned. And, it could be Bidar’s ticket to becoming one of the World Heritage sites in 2016.

Bidar is one of the many favourite getaways for Hyderabadis. It takes three hours by a car to get to this fort town. If you happen to spot several vents while wandering around Bidar, don’t pass them just for wells. They are very important pieces of history, at least of 600 years old. And, in a couple of years, they could also be listed by Unesco as a world heritage site.

These structures are part of the unique Karez water system of Bidar, which are fast disappearing. They were dug out between 1347 and 1518 during the Bahmani rule, to divert water to a new settlement.

A tour of the Karez wells in Naubad was organised by V. Govindankutty, a geographer from Kerala, who specialises in cultural heritage resource management.

What is Karez system?
Karez is a method of collection, transportation, storage and distribution of groundwater, practised in the arid or semi-arid regions. The concept originated in the Persian countries by the name of Qanat. In India, Karez systems were developed during the reign of Muslim dynasties and are found in Bidar, Gulbarga, and Bijapur in Karnataka, Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh.

How does it work?
Karez systems are architectural marvels. In India, they can be an underground water canal system with air vents every 50 metre, or a series of wells linked by a water tunnel, 40 to 60 feet deep.  The Karez air vents acts as wells for the settlement above. Also, the water that flows through the underground tunnel can be drawn out for irrigation from the water tanks it fills up.

Why is Bidar’s Karez system unique?
The Karez system found in Bidar is of the infiltration type. Mr V. Govindankutty explains, “Due to the presence of laterite and basaltic rocks in the Deccan region, making the Karez wells became easier. Since laterite is very porous, water could easily seep into the ground. Laterite also filtered the water making it fit for consumption.”

He adds, “The Karez system in Bidar has been ingeniously built along a geological lineament (fault). And, like most lineaments, on the surface there are a lot of natural streams. These streams allow good amount of infiltration and should have helped keep the water-table high and the Karez perennial.”

Is the system functional?
Though the records suggest that the Naubad Karez has 21 vents, a survey done by Mr Govindankutty revealed 17 of them. Most of the existing vents are still active and being used to draw water for drinking and irrigation.  

It was an early Sunday for the people of Bidar as many Hyderabadis and a few from Bengaluru took part  in GoUnesco’s Heritage Run.

The “fun run” took the  participants around Bidar, spotting 12 structures of historical importance including the iconic Bidar Fort, Gurudwara Nanak Jhira, Shah Gunj Darwaza etc.

Bharathi Vadali from Hyderabad  said, “Since Bidar is close to Hyderabad, we thought it was a great way to spend our weekend.”

Location: Telangana