Heritage pumps to green Taj Mahal gardens lost and found

The well where the pumps were installed is filled up with garbage due to non-use and the pumps are heavily rusted, requiring urgent repair and mechanical intervention

Taj Mahal (Photo: IANS)
Taj Mahal (Photo: IANS)


How were the gardens around the Taj Mahal and the Golf Course in the Agra Circuit House watered more than a century ago when there was no electricity or solar energy?

A group called Heritage Lovers of Agra, found the answer to this question when they discovered a set of huge Hydrams, rusting and neglected in an unused well, two days ago.

Sharing this discovery with IANS, Gopal Singh, owner of the Coral Tree, said: "Our group was shocked at the sorry state of the five Blake's Hydrams (self acting water pumps) supplied by the London-based firm of Blakes in 1907 to Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, whose contribution to restoration and conservation of historical buildings is well known."

Mukul Pandya, a conservationist said: "These five pumps installed at various locations in the Circuit House, Golf Course and the Shah Jahan garden area were used to water the plants and also run the fountains in the Taj Mahal, for over half a century. The loud noise of the hydraulic pumps sounded like an steam engine running at full speed, according to a gardener late Data Ram who died in 2020, at the age of 89."

The well where the pumps were installed is filled up with garbage due to non-use and the pumps are heavily rusted, requiring urgent repair and mechanical intervention.

The heritage lovers have in a memorandum to the Archaeological Survey of India, the Irrigation department of the Uttar Pradesh government and the chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone Authority requested the authorities "to initiate appropriate measures to save these heritage pumps and get them repaired, as these Hydram pumps are the best example of green energy, as they do not cost anything, using only the power of the flow of running water. Experts say that no fuel is required to run these pumps, and are considered highly reliable in terms of continuous use.

"We feel these pumps are heritage pieces and should be showcased as valuable assets to the Taj Mahal lore. The visitors to the monuments would find them interesting exhibits as they open a largely unrevealed chapter of the conservation history," Meheran Uddin, a member of the group said.

The present owners of the company headquartered in London are willing to help restore them, after they were approached for information.

Charles, a director of the company says: "The three cast iron pipes supply the power water to the Hydrams which can force water for a mile nearly 400 feet above the ram. While it is fantastic to have found them, it was always my intention to have them working again."

Getting them going again is not some kind of a mad idea since our Hydram pumps are the best example of green energy, and are part of the heritage of the greater Taj Mahal complex, and if restored, would cause a high degree of interest among visitors who should be interested in their green credentials, Charles added.

The concerned government departments have been urged to restore and restart use of these hydram pumps. Since the original manufacturer is ready to provide all technical support and help, this should not be too difficult. Submersible pumps are a disaster as they deplete underground reserves, Yogesh Sharma of the group said.

The authorities were told that if for any reason, "it is not possible to repair and restore these valuable heritage pumps, we would like to suggest that these antique pieces be displayed prominently so that tourists can take a look. A sign board giving full details can be placed on a raised platform."

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