Belgaum | This ‘Gandhian well’ still continues to quench thirst


Published: 02/10/2018



There are many memorials to the Mahatma across the globe, but the one in Belagavi is a living monument to the principles he lived by.

The Pampa Sarovara or ‘Congress Bavi’ (Congress well) is a large well on Congress Road in Tilakwadi.

It was built by shramdaan (voluntary, community labour) and is a symbol of sustainable utilization of resources.

Ninety-four years after it was built, it continues to supply water to the people of north-west Belagavi.

The well was dug to quench the thirst of delegates of the 39th annual session of the All India Congress committee that Gandhiji served as president in 1924. It was the only session that he chaired.

In 1924, the total cost of digging the well was ₹4,370 and three annas. Over 200 persons, mostly volunteers, were involved in its construction. It met the needs of over 70,000 delegates who came to Belagavi for the session.

The well had fallen to disuse for a while in recent times after browells became omnipresent, but the city corporation revived it in 2005, says Subhash Kulkarni, president of the district khadi association.

“We did not spend much on it as the water source was pure and uncontaminated,” says R.S. Nayak, chief engineer of the Belagavi city corporation.

It is among the 100 rejuvenated wells and 10 tanks in and around the city that supply water to around 40% of its seven lakh residents.

In the middle of the Veera Soudha compound built to commemorate the 1924 session, it does not go dry even in harsh summer.

What happened at the Belagavi session...

The Congress decided to ask Sarojini Naidu to chair the session if Gandhiji were to refuse, but he accepted.

Gandhiji took over from Mohammad Ali, the president of the 38th session. Senior leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and Rajendra Prasad were present.

The city got a temporary railway station to help the delegates arrive at the venue. It saw over 70,000 delegates in the last week of December 1924.

Gandhiji wrote later about the ‘luxurious’ arrangements: “I asked for a Khaddar hut, but the organisers embarrassed me with a Khaddar Palace.”

Legendary Hindustani music maestro Gangubai Hangal, then 11, sang the welcome song in the session.

The Mysuru Maharaja supported the session by lending his court musicians who played at the venue.