HYDERABAD: There was never a time in history when the Deccan Plateau was abundant in water resources. Its rulers — from the Kakatiyas to the Asaf Jahis — had, therefore, made it a point to build structures that could help supply water across their kingdoms. Hundreds of wells and stepwells were constructed by the rulers for residents and travellers.
However, at present, a majority of these structures are dying a slow death, with many of them being turned into dumpyards. Case in point, a large well abutting the Hayat Begum Bakshi Mosque, which was built in 1626. The well, which faces the northeastern side of the courtyard of the mosque, was once called ‘Hati Bauli’ or 'Elephant Well'.
Writer and academician Syed Ali Asgar Bilgrami, in his monumental book called 'Landmarks of the Deccan', documented,"There is a big well called Hati Bauli, the water of which was formerly drawn by elephants".
The book also depicts a garden — that is no longer in existence — by the name of Khas Bagh. "The Khas Bagh outside the Sarai is still in bloom and is even now watered by the old Hati Bauli," Bilgrami wrote in 1927. The Sarai or rest house, is attached to the mosque and served as stop for weary travellers back in the day.
Sadly, the well is now a dumpyard. Speaking to Express, Mohammed Safiullah, managing trustee of the Deccan Heritage Trust, said, "The well is fully defunct. Housing projects around the mosque has been using it as a dumpyard. It is filled with debris." Safiullah said that if the authorities did not take up the restoration of the well, it might get dismantled and be used for commercial activities.
In fact, there are several other wells, like the one in Tolichowki Mosque, and hundreds of stepwells across Telangana, that require immediate attention.
Citing the example of the stepwells on the Qutb Shahi Tombs compound, Safiullah said, "The restoration of Hati Bauli and other stepwells in Telangana will make their surroundings self-sufficient. The restored stepwells of the Qutb Shahi Tombs, for instance, store 30 million litre of water every month." He added that the Deccan Heritage Trust would take up the issue of restoration of the stepwells soon.