Jadhu Hiti, known as Jaru Hiti natively or Jaldroni is a unique way of creating a reservoir tank for pedestrians and travellers.
The Jadhu Hiti shows how Nepali society back then cared for everyone, even the trespassers. One could find Jadhu Hiti and Falchaa (resting area) frequently dotted the ancient town. But sadly, these intangible heritages are neglected these days in the name of modernity.
During the old days, there were no vehicles thus people had no choice but to walk to travel far and wide. The society, keeping such social things in mind, had built Falcha and Sattal (rest houses) along the way. Quite often, Jadhu Hiti was constructed in places with sparse settlements so that the thirsty travellers could quench their thirst. A Sattal is usually accompanied by a Jadhu Hiti. It also avoided the awkward social interaction for those who are too shy to ask for water from strangers.
Jadhu Hiti, the stone reservoir tank that almost resembles the Walle robot (on the photo), is assembled by fixing a rectangular stone tank on a wall with the three vertical stone columns supporting it. Two horizontal line holes that look like eyes are created to pour water into the tank and a nose-like nozzle protruding at the bottom of the tank is a tap. The nozzle has a cork fixed in its mouth. Thirsty pedestrians could uncork the nozzle, cup hands to drink water and put the cork back. The deity motif on top of the tank blesses the people who save water on the tank and also who drinks from it. These reservoirs were made up of special sandstone and had a particular coating on the inside which discouraged any external organisms to thrive and this would also help in retaining the moisture and favourable temperature of the water.
The tradition of filling water into the Jadhu Hiti is linked with religious belief. According to the tradition, anyone who went to fetch water from a community well or waterspouts had to mandatorily offer water into a Jadhu Hiti, to make sure that Jadhu Hiti always had fresh water. Many local residents of Dhaugal in Patan recall the memories of their mother following the tradition of filling and refilling Jadhu Hiti. It was believed that anyone flouting the tradition would remain thirsty after their death and they would never get water in heaven either.
Many principles and ethics as such would be induced by ancestors to maintain discipline and keep harmony in society. They often relate or link programs to religious belief and construct a tradition of doing something so that people practised personal hygiene. Storing water regularly in Jadhu Hiti is one of the examples.
Another popular example is “Sithi Nakha” celebrated as a day for cleaning water sources like well, pond, waterspouts etc. Before cleaning a well, a lit lamp tied at one end of a rope is sent down before the cleaners. Cleaners carry on with the well-cleaning process if the lamp is still burning, while they do not descend down the well if the lamp-fire goes off because that indicated that serpents residing in well are unhappy. But looking at it scientifically, the fire goes off if the oxygen level deep down is low and it is a religious way to check whether the oxygen level down in the well is favourable.
With the massive urbanization in the last 20 years Jadhu Hiti, if still standing, comes alive only in a story and heritage that needs preservation. The tanks do not serve people anymore and in many areas, they are removed because of the lack of restoration idea. Also, they are being replaced by vending machines in Patan where a 2-rupee coin can fetch a water bottle of 200 ml.
Jadhu Hiti which holds story has to be preserved, it’s Nepal’s heritage no matter if it serves purpose or not.
Article: Inherited Heritage
Photo : Bhaktapurians group