No royal, particularly the queen, will ever get to take a bath here again as Nepal is no more a kingdom. However, this epitome of history—the private bath of the Malla dynasty in Patan, Tusa Hiti (hiti meaning stone-spout in Newari)—that is still out of bounds for the public may soon see water flowing through it once again.
Apart from the revival of the vital Tusa Hiti, the area surrounding the main palace in Patan Durbar Square, one of the seven Unesco World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu valley, will get a new lease of life. A common hiti and courtyard today evokes the image of broken bricks of the centuries-old temples and palaces which once beautified the area.
With Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) conducting a massive renovation, reconstruction and restoration campaign for three most important spots in it–Sundari chowk, Mul chowk and Bhandarkhal pond–the palace dating back to the sixteenth century is likely to witness its revival. The 10-year project is being implemented with the $86,000 grant provided by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation about four years ago.
According to Dinesh Tamang, KVPT site supervisor, renovation of Sundari chowk that contains Tusa Hiti is complete. All the works except the replacement of roof tiles are over.
Sundari chowk is one of the three main courtyards of the former palace of Malla kings. King Siddhi Narsingh Malla built the courtyard to the south of the Mul chowk.
However, revival of water in the renovated Tusa Hiti is still a challenge. KVPT says it has been trying hard to bring water back to the multi-faced tap in the hiti that has an image of a thirsty lion carved atop.
“The source of water for the hiti is Naricha near Lagankhel,” said Tamang. “We have been trying to locate its underground route but due to rapid urbanisation taking place in the area, we fear the route might already have been destroyed.” Under the project, renovation work is being carried out also in Mul chowk which was built by Mahendra Malla in 1564 AD. “The entire structure surrounding the courtyard is seriously damaged without timely repair and renovation,” said Tamang.
The whole structure of Mul chowk will be demolished to be rebuilt in its original shape. Mul chowk has witnessed almost all important events of the Malla period. Religious rites, royal weddings, the investiture of the crown prince as well as the coronation of all the Malla kings used to be conducted here.
Another important structure, Bhandarkhal pond that lies in the royal garden to the east of the chowks also saw revival under same project. “Revival of the pond and two chowks is our primary focus at present. After that, we will move on to the restoration of the garden as a public park,” said KVPT Manager Raju Roka. “Sixty percent of the budget has been spent. We need an additional $200,000 to complete the work.”