One of the greatest achievements of the Vijayanagara Empire was the irrigation and water supply network, especially since the region was extremely rocky. A massive city like Hampi needed a consistent supply of water round the year. The only source of water nearby was the Tungabhadra river.
The credit for establishing an efficient irrigation and water supply network goes to the visionary King Deva Raya, who ruled Vijayanagara in the 15th century. Deva Raya realized the importance of water for drinking and irrigation purposes and the scarcity his kingdom faced. The foresighted king had a barrage of big boulders built across the Tungabhadra, thereby damming the river and creating a huge water reservoir for his kingdom.
Deva Raya built a network of canals for irrigation, some of which carried water right into Hampi. A complex network of large and small canals was built, with the larger canals carrying water into the city and then splitting into smaller canals that took the water to every home, creating an advanced water supply system.
To address the drinking water problem, Deva Raya performed an even more stupendous feat. He built a long aqueduct which would carry the water from the river directly to the city of Hampi. Now, Hampi was 24 kilometres away from the Tungabhadra, so Deva Raya built an aqueduct that was 24 kilometres long along with other aqueducts, which was a marvel of engineering, especially for those times.
An aqueduct, unlike a canal is raised above the ground like a pipeline. Hampi was at an elevation from Tungabhadra, which was at a lower height. The challenge was to bring the water through these aqueducts from a low elevation to a high elevation. They achieved this difficult feat by creating a gating system or gate-locking system, whereby water was sent from one chamber to another chamber and lifted to the aqueducts and sent to the tanks. There were numerous tanks, including temple tanks made for storing water not just in Hampi, but in the entire region up to Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh.
It is unfortunate that while everyone knows about the Roman aqueducts, hardly anyone is aware of the Hampi aqueducts which were equally impressive engineering marvels. It’s because of Deva Raya’s ambitious hydraulic-measures which ensured regular water supply for drinking and irrigation, that Hampi rapidly developed into a flourishing centre for trade and commerce. It’s hardly surprising that under Deva Raya’s enterprising regime, Hampi emerged as one of the largest cities in the world.
Ratnakar Sadasyula describes the advanced and complex irrigation and water supply systems developed during the Vijayanagara Empire in his Srijan Talk on “Vijayanagara: The City Of Victory”, a relevant snippet of which is presented here.
To watch the full Srijan Talk by Ratnakar Sadasyula, click on the following link: https://srijantalks.org/2018/06/18/vijayanagara-the-city-of-victory-a-talk-by-ratnakar-sadasyula/