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A look at the traditional harvesting techniques used across the country.

india Updated: May 19, 2003 15:30 IST


This is a system of rational distribution of water.

The word means 'unit'. This is generally community driven endeavour to distribute water on the basis of daily requirement of water determined in terms of units of households and units of animals owned by them.

Water consumption is calculated in units - each human household constitutes one unit while animals are counted per head. It is prevalent in Rajasthan.

As an extension of this practise, before the onset of monsoon, the agor or paytan (catchment) of the tanks are methodically cleaned of waste and rubbish.


This is an underground tank found in places such as Bikaner, Phalodi, Barmer and Balotra.

A tanka by definition is built within a house and used by the members of the household for purely drinking purposes rather than the public.

It can be a circular hole made in the ground or an underground room meant to store rainwater, often channelized from the rooftop. The inner wall of the tank is lined with fine polished lime.


This is a large public tank, dug as a natural depression to capture rainwater and with a large catchment area.

Since water is scarce, a religious sanction is generally associated with them. The catchment area is always kept clean. Cattle are not allowed to stray there while bathing in it is considered an unpardonable crime.

The town of Jaisalmer in Western Rajasthan boasts of various such structures namely Gadisar, Gulabsagar, Givindsagar, Malka, Mooltala and Sudharar. Whole of Rajasthan has many such tanks. Bikaner has 40-odd tanks while Jodhpur has two famous ones called Ranisar and Padamsar.


Unlike the regular Hindi term, a nadi is a local name (in Rajasthan) given to a village pond for storing water from adjoining natural catchment during the rainy season.

It is a natural surface depression which receives rainwater from one or more directions. In Jodhpur and the adjoining areas, is particularly known for nadis. Water availability can range from two months to a year after the rains.

The naming of the nadi also followed a preservation methodology wherein it took the name of the person responsible for the construction, desilting and care of the nadi.


It is a water reservoir situated in valleys and natural depressions. Generally only the sloping side is provided with a strong parapet wall. The other sides are supported naturally by rocky outcrops and hillocks.

Dhab, Toba, Talai

These are all smaller variants of a tanka. They are natural depressions meant to capture rainwater from a natural catchment area.


Generally a small well dug next to a tank to collect their seepage. It is usually 10-12 metres deepand covered with planks of wood.


It is an earthen embankment built across a general slope. This is meant to conserve as much rainwater runoff as possible within an agricultural field. It could be one-off or even in series. It was developed by Paliwal Brahmins of Jaisalmer around the 15th century.

First Published: May 08, 2003 13:08 IST