Charitable Giving in India




Agricultural water well in Khajuraho

In February 2008 I re-visited Khajuraho, a small town in central India in the state of Madhya Pradesh (translation from Hindi: “Middle Provence” or “Middle State”) Khajuraho is famous for it’s 1000 year old temples which have mostly survived the last ten centuries in near mint condition. For more information on Khajuraho see www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khajuraho_Group_of_Monuments 
I learned while in Khajuraho that my friend’s family has a large 16 acre farm that is completely dry and unused save for the brief monsoon period in July/August when they grow a small amount of sesame crops. It turns out that they could not afford to build a water well on the land and this was the only way to get the water that would bring this farm back to life.  So I decided to give them the funds for the well and other projects for the farm.  Eventually the farm will produce food and income for this extended family of over 28 persons. 
On Wednesday, March 19th, the well digging began. I had already returned to San Diego at this point…I wasn’t present for the ground-breaking 🙁 After a prayer ceremony to bless the site the backhoe began digging out the first 8-10 feet. The well will now be dug by hand to a depth of 30-40 feet. Eventually it will be lined with bricks and mortar. I’ll post more pics as I get them. The well is scheduled to be completed by the start of the monsoon season, or June 2008. Hopefully by this time next year there will be fields of green on this dry acreage!
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The backhoe digs down to the first 10 feet or so and then human power will take over to complete the digging.


With pick axes and shovels the dirt is removed one big bucket at a time. Close up of the pulley system for bringing out the earth….basically these are trees that have been selected and trimmed down to size for the job.

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Temperatures are now close to 100 degrees during the day in Madhya Pradesh.  Like California, the mornings are cool but the temperature can soar 40 degrees or more by noon.  It’s like Palm Springs weather with a little more humidity.  By June temps will reach 115 at midday.



APRIL 5th: Well, this would be great if we struck water or oil or something terrific like that, but this is actually a dynamite explosion inside the well!!  There was a large 6 foot diameter boulder that was in the way and needed to be “downsized”.


Although I didn’t get the “before” picture I assume this is the after pic…lots of boulder chunks.

The boulder chunks are much heavier than the normal buckets of dirt, so the oxen are brought in to help. Nice shot of the oxen pulling their weight….they aren’t called “beasts of burden” for nothing!

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Nearby farmhouse.  One of Khajuraho’s many temples can be seen in the distance as the sun slowly fades into the west…….the end of another hot & dry spring day in central India.

April 7th: A second round of blasting was required.  Here you can see the preparation for  inserting the sticks of dynamite.

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Afterwards, lots of boulder chunks to pick up….but they are getting closer to the water table.  Diesel powered air compessor unit is used to power the jack-hammers.


OK, this isn’t related to the well per se, but there is a HUGE den of cobra snakes like this one living just a few hundred feet from the well.  I did see that with my own eyes in March.  Kids, please don’t try this at home!  This is Golu, a boy from Khajuraho. Photo taken about 2 miles from the water well project.




On April 30th, after the latest round of dynamite blasting, water started seeping into the well!   An electric pump is used to evacuate the water each morning so the digging can continue.

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This is basically how the well works: The water table is some 25 feet or so below the surface.  Once the water table is reached you need to then make the well deep enough to fill up with huge amounts ofwater…enough to irrigate a large field of wheat.  When the farmer wants to flood the field they pump the well dry, and through seepage from the water table the well will fill back up to that point 25 feet from the surface.  So a 40 foot deep well will have a volume of water 18 feet across and 15 feet deep.  That’s a lot of water! (28,500 gallons approx.)

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The water has been pumped out every day for about a week now.  Is it my imagination or is the farm turning a little green?


The well has been freshly pumped out to prepare for more digging. (note the wet walls showing where the water line was)

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It’s still taking about an hour an a half to drain the water…..but the digging phase of the project is coming to an end.


These are the new stone bricks that have been purchased and delivered to the site.  They will line the inside of the well to prevent erosion.  This is a much higher quality material than clay bricks….this well should be around when the year 2100 comes around!

The monsoon is just about 4 weeks from starting.  Khajuraho will get (hopefully) 50 inches of rain in the 12 week monsoon period from July thru September.


The thirsty farm is awaiting the benefits of this new well.


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Work begins on the final phase of the water well: construction of the stone lining that will make the well sturdy and long lasting.  Basically this is going to look like a round tower made of steel rebar, cement, and granite blocks.

This is the foundation for the cylindrical tower of granite.  Keep in mind that water seeps in overnight and during the light pre-monsoon rains so the well has to be pumped dry every morning……


Measuring from the center point of the well the engineer makes sure that the foundation is a perfect circle.


Outside the well the steel re-bar is laid out for the “ring of steel” forms…….the steel form takes shape.


Ten people were needed to lift move the ring into position….the ring is lowered into the well…….

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Ring is dropped onto the foundation.


The goal is to install one to two courses of granite per day.  The work is going as fast as possible as the monsoon approaches.

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Too much rain can cause the side-walls of the well to collapse….that’s already been happening to a minor extent but nothing serious so far.  That’s why getting the granite walls installed quickly is important.  But these seasonal rains provide the water that will seep into the earth and feed the water well all year ’round.


Granite blocks being lowered into the work area.

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I’m not sure exactly what they are doing with the tools but I suspect they need to fit the blocks together very tightly.  They are just using gravel and dirt as mortar/grout….no concrete is being used here.

The area behind the block is filled in with gravel and soil before the next course is installed.

This is going to be one GREAT looking water well!!  Only 3,200 more blocks to install and it’s finished!

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Slowly the finished product is climbing towards the surface!
The water well is serving now as a swimming pool….welcomed relief from the burning heat of the Indian summer….
Just about 5 feet from the surface, the well is almost finished.  I went to India for two weeks at the end of August to check on the progress and was thrilled with the results of this project.Note: This is a pic of the well after hours of pumping to lower the water level.  Compare this to the next pic.
The water level in this well is so high the pump must be used to lower the level before more block can be added.  During the monsoon season (Summer) the water table rises dramatically.Water must be pumped out daily during the construction.  Lots of water…..on a farm that’s a good thing!
Hey, who’s the white guy?  Within 3 minutes of seeing the well for the first time I dove right in!
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This temple to the cobra snake God was built in one day around the base of this large “mawa” tree. The temple will be used to offer prayers to the Gods for a fruitful water well and farm. There was a 24 hour ceremony to bless the water well.  Here food offerings are being placed on a small fire during a prayer. 
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There was a 24 hour ceremony to bless the water well.  Here food offerings are being placed on a small fire during a prayer.
WE FEED 250 LOCAL PEOPLE: “Puri” being fried over a wood-fire.  Puri is a flat bread fried in oil.  Roti and Naan are flat breads cooked in ovens or wood-fires without oil.After the blessing for the well we fed 250 people: both family, neighbors, and those who worked on the water well project.
Even the little children helped make the puri. We even had cake for dessert!
After eating the girls were given a blessing (I touched their toes and said a Hindu prayer) and gave them each a one-rupee coin.

The boys don’t get a blessing or the rupee coins….not sure why other than tradition.

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I am so happy with the success of the well….now the hard part begins…farming the land!

December 1st, 2008.  On my most recent visit to the farm…..you can see that the stone work has been completed all the way to the surface.  So there is about 30 feet of water in the well now….and lots of frogs!

Water from the well is slowing flooding the fields to help condition the soil and prepare it for the winter wheat crops.

2009: Construction of a brick wall around the top of the well helps to keep unwanted visitors (like wandering livestock) from falling into the well.



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For now this is “Mission Accomplished”…..there’s plenty of water and lots of sunshine…the rest is up to the farmers.

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Beautiful field of chappati wheat is growing quickly…maybe a 2 month growing period.

The chapatti wheat will be processed to separate the wheat kernels from the stalks by machine.  The kernels will be ground into flour for making the traditional handmade fire-toasted flatbread..a staple food in this part of India.  The stalks will be left behind and eaten by grazing livestock….nothing goes to waste.


With Love, 🙂    MH  12/9/2008

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