Summary on the History of Irrigation Development in India

When natural rainfall falls, crops are cultivated. But what happens when there is no natural source of water? Irrigation is nothing but artificial application of water to the land or soil. Irrigation is helpful in the growing of agricultural crops,  sustenance of landscapes, re-vegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall.


But, how did this irrigation system develop in India?

The History of Irrigation practice in India can be tracked back to prehistoric times. The earliest reference to Irrigation Practices in India were noted by the ancient sage, Narada. He came to see the Emperor Yudhishthhira around 3150 B.C  and asked some straight-forward questions :

“Are the farmers tough and prosperous?” “Are the dams full of water?” “Are the dams big enough?’ “Is the water distributed to different parts of the kingdom?”


By the above questions we can understand how Rulers and learned people are interested in the Irrigation system of India. Ancient Hindu architects were keen to construct viable projects for irrigation works. This would help the hard-working farmers with necessary water supply.

Around 300 B.C, Megasthenese also left a note on the Irrigation Systems in India during the rule of Chandra Gupta Maurya. The Greek Ambassador of Sleukos Nikator wrote that the “whole country was under irrigation“. To the credit of Chandra Gupta, rock inscriptions were found in the State of Kathiawar which say that he constructed the Sudarsan Lake between 300 B.C and 457 A.D.

The inscriptions also make a note of two major disasters that befell it. Due to one of the disasters the lake became so ugly that it looked like a sandy desert. Chola rulers of South India are also great architects in civil engineering and constructed necessary irrigation works.

[Source : Irrigation and Water Power Engineering, B.C.Punmia]

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