Divining for water

Discovery of a groundwater aquifer makes the process of developing wastelands faster than with stored rain water. And since the cost of a dug well is high, a small fortune rides on getting the aquifer location right. In rural India, the task of identifying an adequate source of ground water to feed a well has traditionally been left to water diviners.

In just one week I heard from two people that dowsing for water is something that can be learnt by anyone. There are several books on dowsing that are said to demystify and teach you how to visualise the underground. On the other hand, there are any number of outright skeptics, for example. The truth is probably between a James Randi quote in above link [“Drill a well almost anywhere in an area where water is geologically possible, and you will find it.”] and a certain sensitivity locally endorsed diviners have demonstrated. After all, their reputations are their capital.

Sankara Lingam lives in Peyrambakkam village, about 4 km from pointReturn site. I had risen at 5 am, driven from Chennai and reached Babu Reddiar’s house in Peruveli by 7. The diviner bicycled over shortly from his village. We carried some bricks to use as markers [rocks are not to be used, said the diviner], some lime wash, a steel bar to dig and materials for a puja. Sankar carried a 3-mm wire bent roughly in the shape of the zodiacal sign for aries [- two tiny wings at ends of the vee’s limbs and where the limbs meet, a circle formed by twisting the wire]. That was the divining rod. Babu, Sankar, Radhakrishnan, a helper and myself arrived at the site from the western side, at 8am. It was a fine day.

Sankar had developed convulsions at the age of 13. Doctors diagnosed it as epilepsy and gave him tablets to swallow. That threw his metabolism totally out of sync. He burned in his stomach and threw up constantly. He says, another doctor who was deeply introspective, took him off the pills and placed a pair of open scissors between his palms – it began to swing and spin. He told Sankar that he had the gift to detect water beneath the ground. And so began a reputation and a career. In the last 14 years, he is said to have picked 400 locations right. He is definitely the person farmers for miles around call before they dig a well.

We walked downhill to the North-East end where Sankar offered a small prayer, lighting camphor, facing the sun. He then directed me to walk to points where I desired to locate my wells and he followed me barefoot. The wire was held between between his palms about a foot apart. Points of the wire’s ends pressed against his palms. It began to spin slowly.

2 thoughts on “Divining for water

  1. Hema…
    I will know the accuracy of the diviner’s prediction only when I actually dig at the chosen places – in a few months after the rains cease. I have relied on the diviner’s reputation and the fact local geology has water widely spread underneath, as indicated by several wells in the neighbourhood.
    I admit it’s something of a lottery and I have decided to play it.
    There are technical options but I am not sure how better they are to a diviner’s ways. There is something called an Earth Resistivity Meter  link. See if there is a local service that uses this to locate groundwater. It may be prohibitive to buy.
    Years ago while doing a story on late Mr Kabag of Vigyan Ashram, I learnt he had developed an inexpensive version of this meter and equipped young men in rural India to start mini-businesses using them. He said the meters were accurate. Try contacting them to see if there is someone in your area who can help.There’s brief mention down the page in this article and contact details [not updated] at the end.
    Hope this helps. In any case do come back and post your experience here so others can benefit.

  2. Can you pls let me know how successfull you were with this water spotting. We are in a similar situation and are looking for more information regarding water locations.

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