THE PERSIAN WHEEL

The Persian wheel, a mechanical water-lifting device, usually operated by drought animals like bullocks, camels, or buffaloes. This wheel is used to lift water from open wells for easy access to water sources. The word Araghatta, a Sanskrit one, comes from the intermingling of two words “ara” which is smoke and “ghatta” meaning pot. It is also known as “Rahat” in Urdu, where a number of small pots are attached to a long chain, that distributes the water evenly through an intricate network of troughs in the cropped field or area.

Persian wheel irrigation system was not only the traditional system of agriculture but was also used for the production of cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco, field vegetables, and fruits. The cash crop production systems are the best indicator of the sustainability of the Persian wheel because it is the product of agriculture practices and the socio-economic conditions of the framers. The advent of colonial rule made the British turn towards issues of land revenues and agriculture. This is when the Persian wheel acquired a historic/antique value rather than the local one.

It is believed that the Persian wheel technology originated in Egypt and through extensive trading, spread to India and China. There is also enough evidence that the system of lifting water from open wells was used in India much earlier. The Persian wheel is often called the “saqia” and works in the nature of a pump. The widespread use of Persian wheels was in the ninth and tenth centuries in Rajasthan. The rainfed areas of South India were quick to adapt to such technologies. The district of Kolar in Karnataka is known for the extensive use of the Persian wheel and is also known as “bucket pump” as it has the highest number of wells and tanks in Karnataka. Persian wheels are usually driven by some form of right angle drive.

The most common use of the Persian wheel is the one where the secondary gear is buried and the animals walk over it. Through this method, it gives the farmers the advantage of keeping the wheels as low as possible to minimize the head through which water is lifted. Another example is that of the traditional Persian wheel mechanism where the animals pass under the horizontal shaft. The Persian wheel still exists in some parts of India like in Southern and Eastern Rajasthan, Jharkhand and in the Indo-Gangetic plains. In poorer parts of India with the unavailability of electricity, these wheels are most in use. Persian wheel is a symbol of sustainable and carbon- free water use.

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