07 Apr 2024  |   06:27am IST

Wells of life


God created water in the seven seas, [Genesis] (water, water everywhere not a drop to drink*-- salty), only 3% is drinkable. Water does not just quench our thirst, but also symbolizes spirituality. In prehistoric times, civilization grew around fresh water sources, as humans evolved and invented tools, they started digging wells, the earliest reference to wells is recoded about 8000 years BC in the pre-pottery neolithic (PPN) site of Kissonerga-Mylouthkia in Cyprus, also at ‘Atlit-Yam’ near modern day Haifa in Israel, in India wells were discovered at Indus valley civilization. 

Jacob’s well :- In Biblical times, Jesus was travelling by foot from Judea to Galilee and had to pass through a place called Samaria, now located in the west Bank, tired as he was, he rested near a well called ‘Jacob’s well’, a Samaritan women came to draw water, Jesus asked her for a drink ,the woman astonished; asked Jesus how come he being a Jew was asking water from a Samaritan lady, given the fact that Jews looked down on Samaritans and do not have cordial relations, Jesus then ventured to offer her water of life, that she would never be thirsty again, she retorted, Sir you neither have a vessel nor a rope to draw the water, besides the well is very deep (151 ft.ref. Archiology). The lady was kind enough to offer water to Jesus, Jesus then inquired about her husband, to which she replied she does not have any. Jesus appreciated her candour and told her, that she has had 5 husbands and the present man she is having relations with, is not her husband, stunned at this disclosure she knew Jesus had supernatural powers and she went to the village exalting the name of Jesus. 

Moral of the lesson: - In the eyes of God, all are equal. We should not look down on people, in today’s modern India, it would be like a high caste brahmin askaing water from a ‘Harijan’ woman, how many times have we not seen or read, Harijan women being brutally beaten, stripped naked and paraded as punishment for taking water from a well belonging to a person of higher caste. Water is symbol of washing away impurities both material and spiritual. Jesus washes the feet of the disciples as symbol of humility at his last supper (Good Friday). Jacob’s well still exists today, at a place called Sychar, near Nablus city, present day Palestine. --Wells can be broadly classified as dug, bore and step wells. In Goa, almost all Hindu temples have a shallow step well called ‘Tank’ where devotees bathe/wash. Chand Baori in Rajasthan is considered largest step well in the world with 3500 steps downhill. In times gone by, villages in Goa used to have community wells, where local women used to come to draw water, socialise and gossip, they had various identifier names, one such landmark is in the village of Benaulim called the Moga baim,( ‘lovers well’ ), where love affairs would flourish.

In Panjim Fontainhas, Latin quarters, we have ‘Poço de Padeiros’, (bread makers), who would come to take water for mixing the bread dough, many of the ‘Poders,’ would fall in love with the servant girls who came to draw water.  Pangim also has ‘Poço do Bispo’ (Bishop’s well), village of Dramapur has ‘Padri Baim’ (Priest’s Well), in the village of Seraulim at my mother’s house there is ‘Oiza baim’ (Doctor’s Well) which is believed to have healing properties. At our ancestral house in the village of Chinchinim, we have a century old well built by a religious order of priests called the ‘Paulistas’ (similar to Jesuits) who are reputed to have divine powers to predict the locality where water will be struck after digging the well. Digging and building a well requires both art and workmanship, our well was built with long hard laterite stones chiselled to perfection arranged in concentric circles like mosaic till it reached the surface, the whole masonry is supported at the bottom on a cruciform (+) structure of wood called ‘Chowk’ made of very rare water-resistant wood called ‘Zambo’ sourced from deep forests. The top edge of the well was then covered with an enormous flat granite rock, to enable a person to stand and draw the water, the rope rubbing on the rock, produced long gashes on the rock, displaying the age of the well. Well-building is a lost art, gone with the ‘Pedrus-Ladrus’, ‘Narios and Prabhakars’. In times gone-by, all villages in Goa had plenty of community wells, the villagers had free access to the wells of the ‘Batkars’ as there were hardly any boundary walls; as the society became more affluent every house in Goa had its own well. In the recent past when pipe water was not available villages and even cities were mainly dependent on well water which was self-sufficient.

Salvo (SOS) :- Please save our water sources. All our villages have lakes, ponds (Fondares), springs and wells, which are getting polluted by dumping garbage and construction debris. Overloaded, (under-capacity) Sewage Treatment Plants (STP), use bypass valves to discharge raw sewage offshore at Calangute/Baga/Candolim belt, Benaulim, Colva, destroying our pristine beaches. Sewage is released at Tonca/St. Ignes creek and also at Sirvodem, Navelim both by STP and housing societies polluting rice fields and Salpem lake. Wells are polluted with seepage of septic tanks and soak pits that are constructed without leaving sufficient setback (15 m Not sufficient).  

Suggestion: Registration and renewal of wells should not be limited to mere 5 years, (tax Rs.100 -200) but lifetime tax (as for cars) [Rs. 2000 – 5000) will increase revenue decrease bureaucracy. Registration was introduced to stop the water tanker Mafia drilling tube wells in Verna Industrial plateau below the water table, thereby drying springs. (Beware of South Africa and Bengaluru crisis) However, the tendency is to shoot the Messenger.

 Long live our heritage wells of life!


Idhar Udhar