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In Saket, capital’s oldest surviving dam

Muhammad Shah Tughlaq built Satpula for irrigating the land in his newly built Jahanpanah city

delhi Updated: Jun 18, 2016 19:04 IST
Snehal Tripathi
According to historians, Satpula (‘sat’ means seven and ‘pull’ means openings of a bridge) was constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq (1325-1351).
According to historians, Satpula (‘sat’ means seven and ‘pull’ means openings of a bridge) was constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq (1325-1351).(Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

Ask anyone in Saket or Malviya Nagar about an ancient dam in the area. Chances are you will draw a blank. But a query about a ‘bridge with seven openings’ may yield results as helpful commuters point to a monument on the busy Press Enclave road. With a lush green park on the left and a large open field in its front, Satpula is an ancient water harvesting dam. This is a remarkable structure of the Tughlaq-era, comprising a bridge with seven main openings and two subsidiary openings at each end.

The bridge is mostly deserted; however, after climbing the steep stairs you may spot young couples sitting in secluded corners. Also, those who come for morning walks in the adjacent park often stop by the monument to rest and enjoy the view. The nearby field is a favourite spot for kids to play.

“I come to this monument after walking in the park in the mornings. I sit and relax on the stairs, there are so many things to look around. I enjoy watching birds and squirrels here. The monument is surrounded by greenery and offers a soothing view,” said Ashwin Mehra, of Malviya Nagar.

According to historians, Satpula (‘sat’ means seven and ‘pull’ means openings of a bridge) was constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq (1325-1351).

It was developed as an integral component of defence wall of the fourth city of Delhi, Jahanpanah. Satpula was also designed to provide water for irrigation. It was developed by identifying appropriate topography, i.e., a large open plain where water can be stored for irrigating large flat lands. Hence, this structure with sluice gates and a reservoir was developed. It also served the need of defence against attacking armies.

With no water body existing now, Satpula does not serve the purpose of a dam anymore. The damage to the structure is evident. Over the years, the walls have deteriorated and plaster has come off in majority of its inner chambers. Also, people have scribbled on the walls.

The stream, for which the dam was constructed, doesn’t exist anymore. (Tribhuwan Sharma / HT Photo)

“At present, Satpula bridge is located in Malviya Nagar. But initially, the water body was spread to its south, an area which is now Saket. The structure is in good condition as compared to other structures,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, natural heritage division, INTACH.