The traditional water tank called Jarunhiti was once widely used in the Newar community of Nepal. Now the Jarunhiti is disappearing day-by-day and Nepal is on the verge of losing a valuable part of its cultural heritage.
Many traditional values are vanishing from the country because of the rapid change in the society, politics, and social/cultural behavior of the local people. This book, which is compiled by a photographer, archeologist, and an ethnographer, provides analysis of this cultural crisis.
The book is enriched with photographs of Jarunhiti situated in the different localities of Patan and portrays its usage from the past to present. It asks us to reconsider the future of our cultural heritage and traditional values. We hope this book will be a valuable historical record in the future.
Akira Furukawa Ph.D. Professor, Graduate School of Sociology, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan.
Sukra Sagar Shrestha Archeologist, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Amrit Bajracharya Photo Folklorist Lalitpur, Nepal.
Kanako Ogasawara PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Sociology, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan.
This book started out from the collection of Mr. Amrit Bajracharya's photographs of jarun.
I began following changes in the use of natural resources such as forests and water in Himalayan villages from 1989, and in 2002, I felt the necessity of studying traditional methods and facilities of water use in two ancient Nepalese cities: Kathmandu and Patan. From my experiences, I supposed the problems of water shortage and pollution in the Kathmandu Valley were coming from abandonment of traditional water supply systems, which was the result of urbanization and the introduction of modern water works. I started collecting some data on Patan with the help of Amrit and NECRI (Nepal Environment and Culture Institute).
At the end of summer 2003, when Amrit and I were talking while looking at his pictures of hiti and wells, I noticed there was a curious small building structure with a breast-like shaped faucet, so I asked him what it was. He told me it was a water tank called jarun (my field notes say that he called it zaroo at the time). According to him, these water tanks were no longer in use and were being discarded, so there are very few people now who even knew the word jarun. He also told me about a rumor; actually this is not the case of abandonment.
Academic attention toward the study of jarunhiti (often pronounced as jarun only) in the Kathmandu valley is quite a new phenomenon. Till a few years back no one thought of their importance, but within the last couple of years some responsible organizations have had their attention drawn to this subject.
I was attracted by these stories and began to look for jarun in Patan. Since I had to go back to Japan by September, I asked Amrit to continue the search. I told him that it would be interesting not only to take pictures, but to ask people living close to jarun about their origin, history, ways of maintenance, etc. He took my words very seriously and his research on jarun went on seriously.
When I came back to Nepal a year later, he had already finished (locating searching out) almost all the jarun in Patan. Some of the jarun were cleaned, even if none of them were in use, but some of them were ruined and became, for example, a part of a staircase. More than 150 photos of jarun taken by Amrit seemed to me vivid reminders of changes in eternal history. The jarun represent the notions of rejection and ritual pollution, represented by the caste system, as well as inclusion based on the welcoming characteristics of Newari society.
Jarun were created and served among such rejections and inclusions in the 1500-year history of Nepal, but have been falling into obscurity and abandoned for the last 50 years or so. This seems to hint at the future of hiti and wells also.
We decided to consult with Mr. Bidur Dangol of Vajra Publications at the end of summer 2005 about publishing a photo book on jarun. Mr. Dangol kindly accepted our approach but, concerned about our 'data, he introduced us to Mr. Sukra Sagar Shrestha who came to see us with a rough draft in August 2006.
My first idea was to record the present state of jarun through photographs and interviews gathered by Amrit. Mr. Shrestha's original manuscript, on the other hand, was based on strict archeological methods. I thought the data collected from Newari and Sanskrit inscriptions on monuments and photography accompanied with interviews might not go together, but I decided to follow their exchanges to see what kind of image of jarun would arise from the relationship.
In March 2007, a workshop on "Transformation of Local Knowledge in the Age of Globalization" was held at Tribhuvan University with the help of Mr. Mrigendra Karki to show a case study of Nepalese water and culture. The report and discussion of Mr. Shrestha and Amrit were astonishing. It was a historical moment where archaeology and the study of modern social phenomena met. I can say that the concept for this book was born at that moment.
Since then they have checked almost all jarun in Patan and increased the amount of data by interviewing people and deciphering inscriptions in Sanskrit and Newari. We held several meetings in August 2007, and Mr. Dangol joined us to determine the final editorial line. We decided to finish the work by March 2008.
As is often the case, jarun have been rediscovered. There has already been a move towards revival of jarun. I am pleased to hear that several researchers have recently begun to study about jarun.
The Department of Archaeology and Patan Municipality started the work of documentation of jarunhiti simultaneously in Patan. The Department of Archaeology worked in Nepali while Patan Municipality worked in English. Both of them are still involved in initial inventory works. The Department of Archaeology, being a national body for restoring national monuments, also did restoration work of some of them but the work of Patan Municipality needs further elaboration. On top of that, normal people also restored some jarunhiti in Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur as well.
When we walked around the town at 6 o'clock in the morning, we could see a lot of people taking the first water of the day. Although they had access to running water, the first morning water has to come from hiti or wells as it is the prayer water. The culture of water drawn from hiti and wells should be preserved, even if the introduction of a modern piped water system progresses, not only for idyllic reasons but also for an effective way of solving the water problems from which the Kathmandu Valley now suffers. Because it is said that the Kathmandu Valley is located topographically in the area which used to be a lake, water flowing beneath the surface of the earth always runs into the Kathmandu Valley. Installation of a modern water supply system is inevitable, but using the groundwater through hiti and wells should also be considered, even by utilizing the mechanism of water works as a means. The extraction of water from deep borings has inevitably led the Gahitis and wells go dry for ever.
We can give diverse meanings to jarun, but let us just say they are a symbol of local water use. I hope this book will serve as a starting point to give a second look at water issues 'in the Kathmandu Valley.
The area of study in this volume is limited to Patan city and surroundings only. Since the study is in its initial stage, the endeavor is concentrated on the distribution of jarunhiti there. We believe the maximum number of jarunhiti is concentrated in this area and to start with it will represent the jarunhiti culture of whole Kathmandu valley.
Since this is the first time the subject has been dealt with, there are many new words having no exact translation in English, so we are bound to use Newari, Nepali or Sanskrit words. We have printed these in italic font and a short glossary is given herewith. Likewise, the new place names are also used in many places which are also derived from Newari words. In order to be clear, the first time these place names are used, they are printed in bold type.
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