Young India Speaks: Tuhina Singh from Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar

Tuhina Singh from Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar ia talking about Satpula a ancient water harvesting dam during an event organised by INTACH.

Satpula is a remarkable ancient water harvesting dam or weir located about 800 m (2,625 ft) east of the Khirki Masjid that is integral to the compound wall of the medieval fourth city of the Jahanpanah in Delhi, with its construction credited to the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq (Muhammad bin Tughluq) (1325–1351) of the Tughlaq Dynasty.
The objective of building the weir was for providing water for irrigation and also, as a part of the city wall, to provide defense security to the city against attacking armies.
Satpula is a usage in Urdu and Hindi languages, which literally means “seven bridges”

During the second decade rule of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq, the economic conditions of the Delhi Sultanate was in distress due to very high expenses incurred on the war campaign in South India (Deccan) and also due to the Sultan establishing his southern capital at Daulatabad. Both these acts necessitated increasing taxes to enhance the treasury coffers to meet large expenses. But people were dissatisfied and distressed with these developments. Some tribal groups, such as the Chaghatai tribes, had rebelled, launched raids on many places in North India and even posed serious threats to Delhi, when the Sultan was on his south Indian campaign. In the period between 1334 and 1344, repeated droughts had caused famines that were further compounded by the Black Plague. These two natural calamities had added to the suffering of the people in the country. Urgent solutions had to be found to remedy the distress conditions. One of the viable options planned was of building the Satpula, the seven arches bridge or gate controlled weir/dam, to tap the water resources of the local nallah (stream) feeding the Yamuna river, which could be used to bring large areas of flat land in the vicinity under controlled irrigated agriculture to grow food crops to stem the famine conditions. This solution was also thought to provide the much needed defense to the walls of the newly built city of Jahanpanah.

Satpula is located about 800 m (2,625 ft) east of Khirki Masjid. It is close to the present city suburb of Saket on the Press Enclave Road. In the medieval period, it connected four principal cities namely, the Qila Rai Pithora (the first city of Delhi — Lal Kot or Qutub complex), Siri (with the Siri Fort forming the second city of Delhi), Tughlaqabad (the third city of Delhi) and Jahanpanah (the fourth city of Delhi, the boundary limits of which encompassed the other earlier built three cities). It is locally believed that the waters stored by the weir had healing powers because the sufi saint Nasiru’d-Din Mahmud is reported to have used the waters of this reservoir for daily oblations before offering prayers at the Mosque.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is India’s largest non-profit membership organization dedicated to conservation and preservation of India’s natural, cultural, living, tangible and intangible heritage. Its mission is to:
Sensitize the public about the pluralistic cultural legacy of India; Instill a sense of social responsibility towards preserving our common heritage; Protect and conserve our living, built, and natural heritage by undertaking necessary actions and measures; Document unprotected buildings of archaeological, architectural, historical and aesthetic significance; and cultural resources, as this is the first step towards formulating conservation plans; Develop heritage policy and regulations, and make legal interventions to protect our heritage when necessary; Provide expertise in the field of conservation, restoration and preservation of specific works of art; and encourage capacity building by developing skills through training programs; Undertake emergency response measures during natural or man-made disasters, and support local administration whenever heritage is threatened; Foster collaborations, Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and partnerships with government and other national and international agencies; and generate sponsorships for conservation and educational projects.


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