The dhopkols were designed in the early 20th century to provide the residents of Rajshahi with safe drinking water
Being born and brought up in Rajshahi, I grew up seeing a gigantic, dome shaped "dhopkol" in our neighbourhood.
During summer, children would gather around it and drink water directly from the tap attached to it.
I always wondered how water got into that thing!
I wanted to join those children in drinking water from dhopkol.
However, in the late 1990s, my guardians were sceptic about the purity of the water coming out of it.
So they convinced me that there were ghosts trapped inside that giant cement body. If the lid is removed, they would come out and harm others.
It worked and 6-7 years old I avoided going anywhere near the domes.
Decades had passed before the news of dhopkols being vanished caught my attention.
I was surprised to know that dhopkols were introduced to ensure safe drinking water for the residents of Rajshahi.
The story dates back to the late 19th century when British rulers established Rajshahi municipality in 1876.
During that time, citizens used to depend on the Padma River and other water bodies for drinking water.
That is why water borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea were prevalent.
In 1934 when Roy D N Dashgupta was elected chairman of the Rajshahi region, he decided to resolve the drinking water crisis and introduced water treatment/purifier plants under the Ministry of Calcutta.
They named the project "Rajshahi Water Works". The project needed around 2 lakh taka to be implemented properly.
Rajshahi Association stepped up to help the initiative. They called upon the wealthy people of Rajshahi to contribute.
This appeal reached the philanthropist queen, Maharani Hemanta Kumari Devi of Puthia.
Hemanta Kumari, who was known as a compassionate ruler, donated Tk65,000; an astounding amount during that time.
Out of gratitude for her donation, Rajshahi Water Works was renamed "Maharani Hemanta Kumari Water Works".
The plan was to establish a plant to purify ground water and then supply it all around Rajshahi through dhopkols.
The dhopkols were designed with their own filtering system inside.
Each of them could carry 470 gallons of water and these water banks were always full.
They worked as storage, supplier, and purifier all at once.
According to the plan, the purifier plant was established in Hetem Kha area and around hundreds of dhopkols were placed all around the city.
The dhopkols were connected to the purifier plant by underground pipes.
Every day, the water would be purified and then supplied to the dhopkols through the pipes.
The operation started officially on 14 August, 1937.
The maintenance team would clean the dhopkols every two months.
The dhopkols served the Rajshahi people for years before tube wells became popular in the 1960s.
A few overhead water tanks were introduced too. Still the dhopkols remained.
However after municipality changed to city corporation and water lines became available in every household, dhopkols started to lose their significance.
Many of them became abandoned.
As they were placed on road junctions, when development work such as road widening began, these water tanks began to be demolished.
A number of dhopkols became destroyed, and many of the existing ones lacked supply of water.
Initiatives were taken to preserve a few of them as a part of the local heritage.
Though there are assumptions that the dhopkols have lost relevance in the modern world, people are still seen collecting water from them.
When we visited Rajshahi last month, people were seen bathing with dhopkol water.
Chhobi Saha, a resident of Kumar Para of the city, said that city corporation officials tried to demolish the dhopkol near her house several times but failed as the locals protested.
"We have been drinking water from this place since we were children. I will not let anyone destroy it," she said.