Natalie H. Shokoohy, Waterworks of Mediaeval Bayana, Rajasthan

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Bayana town, Jhalar Ba'oli



Bayana, if it were not for its harsh climate, could have been the capital of the Delhi Sultanate. Many of its rulers employed all the main systems for managing water known in India, while other areas with different climatic conditions utilised only some of the repertoire of traditional methods. One of the oldest dated reservoirs built in India under Muslim patronage, the early fourteenth-century Jhalar Ba’oli, is to be found in Bayana; furthermore a distinctive style of architecture which developed in Bayana in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was later to be employed in the Imperial buildings of Mughal India, a striking precursor of which appears in the Ba’oli of Khan-Khanan, a step-well in the fort of Bayana dating a century before the time of Akbar but employing structural details usually considered to have been innovations of his time. The article presents new surveys of the historic step-wells, reservoirs, dams, and wells with analysis of the epigraphs and contemporary accounts highlighting the social prestige associated with creating infrastructure for managing water far beyond utilitarian considerations.