Water History

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 291–311 | Cite as

Underground water supply system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bangalore

  • Kuili SuganyaEmail author
  • M. B. Rajani


Two maps covering Bangalore and its environs published in 1945 mention a network of Karez in the northern parts of the present Bengaluru city. The word Karez refers to an underground water channel system of central Asian origin. This paper analyses the network of Karez marked on these maps spread across the topography of north Bangalore using geo-spatial data (satellite images), ground validation, historical records (maps, gazetteers, reports and books). It (1) identifies remnants and traces of this network, (2) analyses whether they were built based on the principles of Karez, (3) discusses circumstances when these were built, and finally (4) conjectures the reason for this network to be called as “karez” in these maps.


Karez Bangalore SOI One Inch maps Remote sensing GIS Underground water supply systems 



We thank Dr. John R Marr for sharing scans of the One Inch maps of Bangalore and also the information about them, which have been the main source of inspiration for this paper. We thank the National Institution of Advanced Studies (NIAS) for institutional support. The first author is registered for a PhD at Manipal Academy for Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal and is thankful to MAHE for permitting this research as part of the PhD programme.


  1. Annaswamy TV (2003) Bengaluru to Bangalore: Urban History of Bangalore from pre-historic period to the end of 18th century. Vengadam Publications, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  2. Bowring L (1869) Administration report of Mysore 1868–1869. Government, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  3. Buchanan F (1807) A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar. The Honourable the Directors of the East India Company, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Burrard S (1917) Map of Chengalpattu, Madras 66D/1. Surveyor General of India, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  5. BWSSB, 2016. BWSSB. Accessed 27 Sept 2017
  6. Cerro CD, Cordoba JM (2018) Archaeology of a falaj in Al Madam Plain (Sharjah, UAE); a study from the site. Water Hist 10(1):85–98Google Scholar
  7. Charbonnier J, Hopper K (2018a) The Qanat: archaeology and environment. Water History 10(1):1–99Google Scholar
  8. Charbonnier J, Hopper K (2018b) The Qanat: a multidisciplinary and diachronic approach to the study of groundwater catchment systemsin archaeology. Water Hist 10(1):3–11Google Scholar
  9. CMWSSB, 2016. Chennai Metro Water Historical Background. Accessed 2 June 2018
  10. Crook D, Tripathi S, Jones R (2015) An investigation into the age and origin of Suranga in the foothills of the Western Ghats of India. Water Hist 7(3):253–270Google Scholar
  11. Dikshit G, Kuppuswamy G, Mohan S (1993) Tank irrigation in Karnataka: a historical survey. Gandhi Sahithya Sangha, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  12. Ellis RS (1865) A report on the station, barracks, and hospitals of Bangalore. Gantz Brothers, MadrasGoogle Scholar
  13. gounesco, 2014. The global, participative, engagement platform for everything heritage. Supported by UNESCO. Accessed 27 Sept 2017
  14. Greenwell A, Curry W (1896) Rural water supply: a practical handbook on the supply of water and construction of waterworks for small country districts. Crosby Lockwood and Son, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Gunter CP (1926) Map of Bombay 47E/3. Surveyor General of India, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  16. Higham ST (1908) Irrigation and Navigation. The Imperial gazetteer of India: the Indian empire. State for India in Council, Oxford, pp 314–362Google Scholar
  17. Khan MFK, Nawaz M (1995) Karez irrigation in Pakistan. GeoJournal 9:91–100Google Scholar
  18. Lightfoot DR (2000) The origin and diffusion of Qanats in Arabia: new evidence from the Northern and Southern Peninsula. Geogr J 166(3):215–226Google Scholar
  19. Longe FB (1906) General report on the operations of the survey of India during 1904–1905. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  20. Manuel M, Lightfoot D, Fattahi M (2018) The sustainability of ancient water control techniques in Iran: an overview. Water Hist 10(1):14–30Google Scholar
  21. MCGM (2018) Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Accessed 29 May 2018
  22. Meyer WS, Burn R, Cotton JS, Risley HH (1908a) The imperial gazetteer volume 09 Bomjur to Central India. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  23. Meyer WS, Burn R, Cotton JS, Risley HH (1908b) The imperial gazetteer of India volume 21 Pushkar to Salween. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Mohyuddin A, Chaudhry HUR, Ambreen M (2012) Social Organization of a Karez in Balochistan (World System Analysis in Anthropological Perspective). Int J Arts Commer I(02):131–148Google Scholar
  25. Nagendra H (2016) Nature in the city Bengaluru in the past, present, and future. Oxford University Press, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  26. Nalini N (2016) The Great Divide: exploring the divergence between urban metabolism in theory and practice in water supply system in Bengaluru. Int J Urban Sustain Dev 9:1–21Google Scholar
  27. Rajani MB (2007) Bangalore from above: an archaeological overview. Curr Sci 93(10):1352–1353Google Scholar
  28. Rao CH (1930a) Mysore gazetteer (volume 02) modern (part IV), New edn. Compiled for Government, Bangalore(Mysore)Google Scholar
  29. Rao CH (1930b) Mysore gazetteer volume 03 economic. Compiled for Government, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  30. Rao CH (1930c) Mysore gazetteer, vol 05. Compiled for Government, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  31. Rao CH (1948) History of Mysore (1399–1799 A.D.). Government Press, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  32. Rao NG (1951) Design of Volute Siphon. Quatrieme Congres Des Grands Barrages 88(3):915–930Google Scholar
  33. Rao NG (2008) Design of Volute Siphon. J Indian Inst Sci 88(4):915–930Google Scholar
  34. Rice BL (1876) Gazetteer of Mysore and Coorg volume II Mysore by districts. Mysore Government Press, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  35. Rice BL (1897a) Mysore: a gazetteer compiled for government, vol I. Westminister, South WalesGoogle Scholar
  36. Rice BL (1897b) Mysore: a gazetteer compiled for government, vol II. Westminister, South WalesGoogle Scholar
  37. Rice BL (1908) Imperial gazetteer of India, Mysore and Coorg. Government Printing, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  38. Saha S (2005) An appraisal of the drinking water supply of Kolkatta KMC city its past present and future. University of Calcutta, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  39. Sankey RH (1867) Report on the administration of Mysore 1863–1864. Mysore Public Works Department, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  40. SOI (2009) Survey of India Hand Book of Topography Chapter V. 7 ed. s.l.: Survey of India. Section VI, para 63, 7th edn. 2009, p. 82 (earlier edns. 1911, 1915, 1926, 1935, 1941, 1966) Accessed 1 June 2018
  41. Srinivasan S (1991) Water supply to Madras city. J Indian Water Works Assoc 72(3):161–166Google Scholar
  42. Stuart ER (1918) Map reading and topographical sketching. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Subramanian DK (1985) Bangalore City’s water supply: a study and analysis. Essays on Bangalore. Bangalore, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology, IISc, pp 51–148Google Scholar
  44. Thuillier HL, Symth R (1875) Manual of surveying for India detailing the mode of operation on the trigonometrical, topographical and revenue surveys of India. Thacker Spinck and Co., CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  45. Unnikrishnan H, Sen S, Nagendra H (2017) Traditional water bodies and urban resilience: a historical perspective from Bengaluru, India. Water Hist 9(04):453–477Google Scholar
  46. USGS (2014) SRTMDEM ID SRTM1N12E077V3 11 Feb 2000, s.l.: US Geological SurveyGoogle Scholar
  47. USGS (2017) Corona Satellite Image 10Oct1965-ID DS1025-1071DA091, s.l.: USGSGoogle Scholar
  48. Verma HS (1985) Bombay, New Bombay, and metropolitan region: growth process and planning lessons. Concept Publishing Company, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  49. Vishwanath S (2008) Ooru-Neeru: The Water Walk. Accessed 28 Sept 2017
  50. Wheeler GM (1885) Third International Geographical Congress and Exhibition at Venice, Italy 1881. Resolution of Congress, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  51. Wheeler EO (1955) The survey of India during the war and early reconstruction 1939–1946. Survey of India, DehradunGoogle Scholar
  52. Wulff HE (1968) The Qanats of Iran. Sci Am 218:94–105Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)BangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations