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caste discrimination around water sources

Sometimes people's drawings illustrate the stories they were thinking of, sometimes the act of drawing brought out stories of their past. 

 Chan Maya Maharjan

Chan Maya Maharjan

"When I was 12 years old, I got married. My mother-in-law made me fetch water from the community well. One day when returning home, my mother-in-law threw away all the water I'd carried home from the well. The reason was, there were people from the so-called lower caste fetching water from the well at the same time, so my mother-in-law thought that one of the lower caste people might have touched the water and made it impure. As a young girl, I did not understand why my mother-in-law did that."

 Badri Laxmi Shrestha

Badri Laxmi Shrestha

"When I was a child I went to my maternal uncle's home in Chyasal. One day my uncle asked me to fetch water from the community well. Coincidentally, one of the village girls who belonged to the so-called lower caste looked very similar to me. So the villagers thought that I was the girl from the lower caste trying to fetch water, so they scolded me very badly. I ran crying towards my uncle and threw away the pitcher and from that day never went to that well again. I experienced how unjust and terrifying it was to live as a lower caste person. These days, such acts don't occur, at least not in the city areas."

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The components of a Gaa hiti

hiti components 2_small.jpg

HITI - hi means running, and ti (from tila) means conduit. Hiti actually refers to the conduit made from burnt clay and sometimes wood in this complex water system, but overtime people generally use simply hiti to refer to these spaces as a whole.  

GAA HITI - are hiti that are built below road level, so that the spouts can align with natural or manmade underground water conduits leading water from tanks or reservoirs. They comprise of 1 or more spouts built against the wall, set about a meter above ground. 

HITIMANGAA - are intricately carved stone spouts often depicting creatures and gods relating to water. They are highly artistic as well as carry religious functions. 

DWHON - is the outlet drain that takes the excess water downstream or to places where they can be used for irrigation. The drainage system is a very important and their being able to function is key to the survival of the hiti as a clogged hiti can collapse. 

ATHAH - meaning washer bowl, and acts as a distribution bowl. Some conduits have filtration systems engineered into them, where filtered water are then distributed through the bowl. I'm still not entirely clear how the bowl functions, and it seems the athah at the Mangaa Hiti is a recent replacement and is no longer in use. 

All of the terms above are from the Newari language, and their functions are mostly based off of descriptions in the UN-HABITAT publication "Water Movement in Patan" 2008. It's a recommended read if you're interested in knowing more about water situations in Patan, as well as the hiti

  Mangaa H  iti, built around 570 AD, at the Patan Durbar Square on Mangal Bazaar

Mangaa Hiti, built around 570 AD, at the Patan Durbar Square on Mangal Bazaar

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Hiti - The names

Hiti is the traditional water supply system in the Kathmandu valley with an attached tap (mostly carved from stone) channeling water from underground sources or other water reservoirs to public spaces, often built under street level, where people come to collect water. The system is at least  1500 years old but are still in use today providing daily water supply to a substantial part of the population, particularly the urban poor.

Hiti have undergone many name changes. In the Lichhavi period (400 - 750) it was called Kirti, meaning merit, referring to the merit received in the act of building something essential to life. In the late Lichhavi period it was called Pranali. From the Malla period (13th - 18th century) it is popularly referred to as Gaahiti, Hitigaa, Lonhiti, Ihohiti, or simply Hiti, in the Newari language, and Gairidhara, Makaradhara or Dhunge Dhara in Nepali, literally meaning stone stream. 

Because this elaborate system was built by the Newar people, natives of the Kathmandu Valley, I will hereby refer to this system as hiti. Hi meaning moving, and ti is an abbreviation of tila, meaning conduit.

 Mangaa hiti, built around 570 AD, at the Patan Durbar Square on Mangal Bazaar

Mangaa hiti, built around 570 AD, at the Patan Durbar Square on Mangal Bazaar

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