Village Well is Ladies Club in India! (Post No. 3032)

gossip well

Compiled by london swaminathan

Date: 3RD   August 2016

Post No. 3032

Time uploaded in London :–  20.346

( Thanks for the Pictures)




(for old articles go to OR


From the book, “Life and Labour of The People of India” by Abdullah Yusuf-Ali, Barrister at Law, Year 1907, London)


India Water_Siva

“As the social life of the men centres round the Lambardar’s (Village headman) reception room, so the social life of the women centres round the village well, to which they go to draw water. The graceful figure of the village maiden, with two or three pots of different sizes–the smallest on the top poised on her head, going to the river to fetch water, has been so familiarised in Daniell’s pictures that it is scarcely necessary to describe it in words, but the social chatter which takes place at the well claims a little of our attention.


In the first place it must be realised that the water supply of a village which is some distance from a stream or river (a description that would apply to a vast number of villages) is not derived from any water-works, but from deep holes dug und to a depth of 15 to 30 feet, according to the spring level. The vertical hole thus made in the soil is lined with masonry. When the masonry tube is well sunk in, a ceremony is performed which is analogous to that of the going of a bride to the husband’s house. The well is supposed to be a living being, and she is married to the god of the locality. No one is allowed to drink water out of it until the installation has taken place in due form. It is attended with some picturesque ceremonies, and forms quite an event in village history.


The exterior of the well is built up in the form of a round platform with an opening into the well in the centre. On this platform are fixed two or three poles, or a framework with a pulley and ropes, to help people to draw water. The mouth of the well is sometimes covered with a wooden grating to prevent accidents, as men and women have been known to lose their balance and fall into the water. The favourite mode of suicide, by the way when an Indian woman finds herself unhappy in her married life on account of differences, not with her husband, but with her mother-in-law is by jumping down a well.

village well, google

The usual gossip of the women, morning and evening, is around the village well. It is the ladies’ club, as exclusive as the aristocratic clubs of London. The higher castes have wells of their own, to which no lower class people are allowed to go to draw water.


The conversation which usually takes place among the elder women when they are present is about the enormities or failings of the younger women who are their daughters-in-law. If they are absent when they are gone, then comes the turn of the young wives to compare notes about their respective mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, not often to the advantage of these relatives of the husband. Thus you will see the village well looms very large in the social history of the Indian women; but it would require a whole volume to enlarge upon the romance of the well.


It will be remembered that even so in England, in the age of chivalry and romance, great many legends gathered around wells. These still linger around the holy wells in Cornwall and Ireland. Southey wrote a famous ballad on the well of St Keyne, and the scene of one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels is laid in the midst of the motley society that come to “take the cure” at St Roman’s well.


The men also come to the well, but the morning and evening hours are sacred to the women. These hours are usually avoided by the men out of respect to the fair sex. The most perfect decorum and even privacy is observed these matters in the village. Though the village women go about freely, there is never any molestation of them, and the men, in their own rough and ready way, show a chivalrous not noticed by those who only look at life from a superficial point of view.

well, bargarh Dt., new IE

All crimes, social or legal, against women in a village, are committed by strangers, but they are not many. Of course, the lot of the Indian women requires improvement in many ways but so does that of the Indian man, and, taking them altogether, we ought to be very cautious in judging either sex. Their lives are as possible under the circumstances. The social evils of the joint family system are responsible for much friction between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, and for many attempted suicides on the part of the latter; but that is a large question, and need not detain us here.


It may be asked: If the men do not come to the well to draw water, and if they have their own meeting places in the village, why should they come to the well at all? The answer is that the water which the women draw is mostly for drinking and cooking purposes. The bathing is all done at the well. Ablutions form a great feature in Oriental life. Every Hindu of the better classes is supposed to bathe before every meal, and he does bathe at home, but comes not to the well, divests himself of all his clothes except his loin cloth, and pours water over his head and shoulders. This is all done quite publicly in the open air. It is generally done on platform round the mouth of the well the and sometimes the dirty water finds its way in. One of the problems of public sanitation in the administration of the villages is to make the platforms in such a way that the dirty water cannot possibly find its way in, but must all flow out. The best way is to have separate bathing platforms round about the well. But, even so, the water that flows out is apt to stagnate round the well, percolating through the soil, and eventually affecting the purity of the water in the well. There is no systematic drainage of the village streets, and all sanitary reforms in the villages have first to deal with this particular evil.