Panchakki – The Water Wheel, Aurangabad
Aurangabad is not just about carved caves and fascinating forts or towering temples and silencing sepulchers. Here you will find one of the rare engineering marvels of medieval India: Panchakki – the water wheel. It is situated right in the heart of the city and will take just an hour to tour the complex.
As we entered we were surrounded by a group of guides, and the haggling started. Strangely we found they settle for around Rs.200 whether it is for three hours at the Ajanta Caves or four hours at Daulatabad Fort or the half-hour tour at Panchakki. These guides earn maximum during the winters and monsoons when many more tourists visit Aurangabad. During the summers when temperature is around 45degrees, there are days when most guides earn nothing at all. Felt really sorry for the guys there.
The young guide who took us around described with pride this little known tourist spot. At the complex there is a huge tank brimming with water and a centuries old fountain at the center functional even now. Underneath this reservoir (pic.), he explained there are spacious rooms which were used by the pilgrims in the earlier days. During summer these cool rooms provided lot of relief to the tired travelers. These rooms are not in use now and are not open for tourists.
This complex also houses the tomb of Sufi Saint Baba Shah Jaffar. He was the spiritual advisor to Emperor Aurangazeb. There is a small museum here; rows of arrows, beads used in prayers, other crumbling artifacts and pottery are displayed here. No access to its interiors however. I wish they were properly labeled and displayed.
The Working of Panchakki – The Water Wheel
The waterwheel is below the ground level. We peeped through a grilled space at ground level to have a glimpse of the water wheel. There was no water and the Panchakki wasn’t moving.
He hurriedly explained during the rainy seasons water flows in turning the waterwheel at great speed. This energy is used to turn the grinding wheel. He then turned Panchakki – The water wheel with his hand, and asked us to check the grinding wheel. It was moving. He seemed happy that he could impress us. The wheel-turning, I suspect, is one of his favorite guide-acts.
“Water reaches this spot through a maze of clay pipes, from a spring in the mountains 8 kilometers away. These days the big industries that have moved in are siphoning off water at the source point. So only during rains the water wheel functions.” He sounded very worried. May be he is worried tourists will stop visiting this spot then. We were touched by the amount of interest he took to explain everything in detail.
Pointing towards the Banyan tree next to the tank he said it is over two hundred years old and suggested that we take some rest in the shade of the tree, “You will be blessed and it will give you lot of peace of mind, Sir.”