When ‘Bhishtis’ delivered water in leather bags

UDAIPUR: Recently, the ministry of urban development had asked Udaipur Smart City Limited to work out on a proposal of supplying 24-hour water for the entire city. As of now, the system is that drinking water is supplied on alternate days to the entire city. The suggestion reminds veterans of the old days, especially the era when there were no pipelines and when water was considered a precious commodity. It was also an era when men of a certain community carried water on their backs to deliver it at doorsteps in the interior parts.
In those days water had to be transported mostly manually from the source such as lakes, wells, rivers, to the place of use, like kitchen, bathrooms, (non-flush) toilets. Naturally, consumers valued this labour-intensive commodity," reminisces Pushpendra Singh Ranawat, a retired professor. The per capita consumption of water was less. "As children we would hardly use more than two buckets of water (20-30 litres) per day. With the advent of piped water and flush toilets, per capita consumption of water shot up drastically. Population explosion added to draining of the resource," Ranawat says. Tourists are believed to waste a considerable amount of water, hence school children and hospitality industry should spread awareness regarding non-wastage of water.
There was no piped water supply those days, water was transported, say, from Pichola or a baoli, in 'masak' a hide/leather water container carried on short bullocks or on shoulders, for short haul, by Bhishtis. The Bhoi community was also responsible for water management and they were held in great esteem and were addressed as Bhoirajji or Bhoyanji," said, SK Verma, a retired officer of the Indian Forest Service.
Water was needed for washing, cooking and eating, so fairly a large quantity of 'Class-II' water was needed. Class-I water was used for drinking and personal use. So the water tanks were essentially 'storage tanks' to augment the Class-II water resources rather than for any conservation work. First water pipeline and public tap was a big event for Udaipur in 1931, Verma said.
"Piped water has increased water consumption. In our haveli on Bapna Street, I recall that in 50's, a Bhishti used to bring water from Pichola lake in leather bags. The water was considered a very valuable commodity. The utensils were cleaned with kitchen ash, i.e., dry cleaned! Maids used to take clothes to Pichola for washing and would also bathe there, so water could be managed better in havelis," said commander Pratap Singh Mehta, a retired naval office

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