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The Water Structure of Amber Measurement and Conjecture

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Craig Wardill
University of Queensland Brisbane Australia
This Thesis begins by introducing the settlement in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, Amber. The physical environment of the town is briefly described including topography and climate along with distinctive features of the surrounding landscape and built environment within the settlement (Chapter 1). Significant sociopolitical events that have influenced the development of the settlement are also discussed chronologically. They include the rise of the settlement during the medieval period as the capital of the Kachwahara Rajput chieftain (966 to 1562AD), the influence of Mughal domination (1562 to 1726AD), the abandonment of the town (1726-1900AD), and a contemporary description of the settlement (1994). This account of the town in history provides the context for the documentation of structures related to water and associated water systems that are discussed in the latter part of the thesis.

The broader significance of water within the context of settlement and cultural development of India is then examined (Chapter 2). After discussing the early remains of waterworks at ancient settlements within the region, the influence of water in traditional myths, legends and religious developments is outlined. The effect of these cultural influences on traditional architectural practice is also outlined by introducing structures that have developed as specialised branches of indigenous Indian architecture. The ‘water structures’ discussed include stepped ghats, wells, stepped wells, stepped tanks and reservoirs. Traditional water harnessing technologies associated with these structures are also introduced and examined citing key historic examples.

The water structures located within Amber during fieldwork are documented including wells, stepped wells and stepped tanks (Chapter 3). In general the architectural characteristics, stylistic mannerisms and structural layout of these structures are discussed by comparison to each other. Several examples including two stepped wells and a stepped tank are described in detail by measured drawings.

The remains of original water systems associated with the town but located in its periphery, at the Amber Palace and Jaigarh Fort are also discussed. The physical extents of the water system at the Amber Palace including reservoirs, garden complexes and water tanks are examined. The original path of water through the water system is traced including hypothetical analysis and reconstruction made at areas that have been subject to extensive damage (Chapter 4). Previously undocumented and unique features of this water system are also documented in detail including the remains of a water reticulation system (relay rehant) and areas of the palace where elements of an original water lifting device (rehant) are still extant (Chapter 4).

Existing studies relating to the extent of the water system associated with Jaigarh Fort are also summarised (Chapter 5). The study extends existing studies of this water system by mapping the physical extent of elements that have been previously been unrecorded within the broader landscape. These water structures include the remains of an extensive water reticulation system, reservoirs, and other associated water features.

The findings of the thesis are then summarised and conclusions drawn (Chapter 6). The water structures of Amber are discussed in relation to the broader cultural heritage significance of such water structures within the historic and contemporary context of Indian culture.

Craig Wardill


This thesis was eleven years in the making. From its original inception inspired by two Indian architects visiting Brisbane, Australia, the student author funded and carried out two consecutive four-month field trips to north-west India during 1993-1995 carrying out voluntary documentation work for the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. This fieldwork resulted in the magnificent measured drawings of 'The Water Structures of Amber' that form part of the thesis. The process of writing the thesis was intermittently disrupted by the author's health problems, but despite these various challenges, his research commitment and investigative sensitivity has resulted in an original scholarly contribution to the architectural history of India and to the global understanding of the significance of water to the evolution of human settlement. His research comprises a piece of 'salvage architecture', reconstructing the medieval technology of elevating and reticulating water to mountain-top fortresses and palaces in arid Rajasthan. I have no hesitation in recommending this high-quality thesis for international recognition.

Assoc Prof Paul Memmott
[Student's Thesis supervisor]
Director, Aboriginal Environments Research Centre
School of Geography Planning and Architecture
University of Queensland, St Lucia
Australia

2003
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