A city with a water body enjoys several stories to claim its own. Delhi and the Jamuna, Kolkata and the Hoogly, Sangli with it’s Warna and Krishna, Pune with the (now) tiny but very much its own Mula and Mutha. You get the drift. Stories of floods, of its fertile soil, swimming lessons and also of drowning abound.
Belagavi, a sweet little cozy city, does not have a river of its own. The Tamraparni, Malaprabha, Hiranyakeshi are all miles away. But Belagavi has had its share of the water bodies, the jewel in the crown being the Fort Lake. The lake, with an island to boast and stories of sightings of the crocodiles makes for a good recreation place today. It also greets visitors as they enter the city by road. It shines by the day and buzzes by the night. Flanked by the Fort, it is definitely an attraction. Apparently, the island is a result of the de-siltation activity years ago.
The other cousins are perched on the hillock towards Hindalga, now in a set of 5, separated by embankments, popularly known as Argan Lake. Although off reach for common folks, it houses several species of birds, commonly identifiable among them being the cranes, the egrets and the ibis, also several kingfishers lining the banks and atop cattle. Before being taken over by the KHB buildings, the place right below the railway overbridge used to be a lake. We often gauged the rainfall by the expanse of the lake, many times spreading right upto the Raghavendra Swami matha. I have witnessed the whole of the left hand side of the bridge being submerged during the eighties, for many years before buildings sprung up. The Kapileshwar pond came abuzz mainly during the Ganesh festival but otherwise it used to be tranquil. It will lose its identity once the flyover becomes functional.
Belagavi, however, does have its share of huge open span wells, the Congress well being right at the forefront. It has shrunk in size after the renovation, and appears tamed now with all its enclosures. But it used to ooze enough oomph and mystery in its heyday. The well at Hutatma Chowk (Kaveri Cold drinks) is synonymous with its twelve pulleys or Gadgada. Joshi mala in Khasbag has a huge open well where a large population of Belagavi claims to have learnt to swim. A superb well lies locked behind Bharatesh High School, finely built and with clean waters. A huge water body has reluctantly sprung up besides Big Bazar, owing to massive digging for foundation work as also near Gomatesh High School, where even buffaloes are found bathing in the evenings. The small lake at Angol barely has any personality of its own, largely due to its wild vegetation. The moat around the Belagavi Fort is filled with water for a major part of the year, especially after some showers.
A water body, however small, brings with it a unique charm. Birds, animals use it as a watering hole, cattle dot the periphery while humans frolic. It also runs the risk of flooding when it’s too close. Whatever Belagavi has in the name of water, is thankfully clean, unlike Bangalore or other places where lakes have turn toxic and frothy. Whatever space a water- body would have occupied, Belagaviites have in their hearts! And their eyes do water with empathy. That’s more than enough