Session at ECSAS 2020; the 26th European Conference on South Asian Studies

The panel intends to explore innovative narratives of water structures in terms of their eco-historical, socio-political and aesthetic siting, beyond the conventional art historical parameters, and breaking the boundaries of hitherto often tightly fenced disciplines.


  • Jutta Jain-Neubauer Dept of Asian and Islamic Art, Univ. Bonn, Germany (Bonn, Germany)

Designing water has been manifesting itself in myriad water structures since the inception of architectural thinking in South Asia, visible in their ingeniously conceived forms and reflecting the interconnection between spatial topographies, aesthetic perceptions, ecological sustainability, hydro-technical knowledge, robust trade and commerce, regional or canonical conventions, and political manipulation. The objective of this panel is to investigate the immense cultural and eco-historical significance of water structures in South Asia, which often reveal ingenious design solutions for collecting and distributing water, water hygiene and community health as well as the spatial habitat. Today, when climate change and water conservation are pressing issues, this discussion about traditional forms of water harvesting and distribution systems may prove to be relevant in evolving alternative thinking in the current water debate. Topics of prospective panellists could include – but are not limited to – the following: - What is the ‘language of water’ in terms of their artistic and structural characteristics imbedded in the prevailing local norms and practices and geo-political migrations? - How is their spatial expression curated and negotiated – as a marker of space, of ecological sustainability and of social segregation and integration? - How is water framed in ritually mediated spaces? - What has been the hydro-technical knowledge that went into the making of the water structures? - What is ecological connection to the surrounding rural or urban topography? -How are water histories written and narrated, how is water engineered and managed by the state?