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Another Goodly Lake

View of Amber Fort. The first stage of the water-lifting machinery is in the lower right of this picture.

View of Amber Fort. The first stage of the water-lifting machinery is in the lower right of this picture.

In a blog post last summer, I discussed pre-modern artificial lakes in western India, including Jal Mahal Sagar in Jaipur and the Alwar Sagar. In arid western India during the Mughal period, artificial lakes provided water supplies for the cities that were growing in size during that time. These lakes still serve this purpose, although they have been supplemented by more modern lakes impounded by concrete or earthen dams.

Before the founding of Jaipur in 1727, the capital of the Kachhawaha Rajputs was at Amber (sometimes alternately spelled Amer). Amber Fort, built around 1600 during the reign of Man Singh I, was the royal palace; it is perched on a hill above the town. The water supply for Amber Fort was Maota Lake, impounded by a masonry dam in a valley below the palace. The rectangular top of the dam is landscaped as a geometric Mughal garden.

Overhead view of Maota Lake Dam, showing the Mughal garden on top.

Overhead view of Maota Lake Dam, showing the Mughal garden on top.

Maota Dam garden, Dilaram Bagh.

Maota Dam garden, Dilaram Bagh.

Since it supplied the all-important water needed for the inhabitants of Amber, Maota Lake was enclosed by the outer defensive walls of the city. Moving the water from the lake up to the palace posed a difficult engineering challenge. The topography of the site, and the requirement that the palace be located on a hilltop above the lake, made it impossible for the builders of Amber to use a gravity-fed aqueduct. Rather, they constructed an animal-powered multi-stage pumping station. A series of five ox-driven bucket lifts raised water from the lake level up to the palace.

Wooden gears that transferred the power of oxen walking in a circle to the bucket lift.

Wooden gears that transferred the power of oxen walking in a circle to the bucket lift.

View down the shaft of the top-most stage of Amber Fort's water lifting machinery.

View down the shaft of the top-most stage of Amber Fort’s water lifting machinery.

The pre-modern water-raising machinery at Amber Fort is similar to technology used throughout southwestern Asia, from India to the Levant. In 2013, UNESCO declared Amber Fort and five other Indian castles a World Heritage Site, collectively designated “Hill Forts of Rajasthan.” Among other features of the forts deserving of world heritage status, the inscription mentioned “extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today.”

Amber Fort celebrates its designation as a World Heritage Site, July 2013.

Amber Fort celebrates its designation as a World Heritage Site, July 2013.

(For more on the architectural aspects of Amber Fort, and other Rajput structures, please see my post “Batman Goes to India.”)

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Willy,
    This is really a informative post about Amber Fort. As I am pursuing civil engineering in Jaipur and I also came to know that the drainage system of this fort is great.

    If we talk about its structural point of view then also it is absolutely fine for the air circulation.

    As there are two lakes, one is in front side name Maota lake and second is on back side of the fort. These places near by the lake are always cool and Raja also have their sitting chamber on the back side of the fort.

    Another purpose of making this artificial lake on back side of the fort is to drawn water in emergency.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Glad to hear from another admirer of Amber Fort. I learned about the lake on the backside of Amber Fort on a later visit to Amber (after originally writing this post). Each time I visit a pre-modern artificial lake in Rajasthan, I am more impressed by the ingenuity of the people who constructed them centuries ago, and I am glad to see them maintained in the present day.

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