This structure came down again in the 1934 mega-quake, and Juddha Sumsher Rana had it reconstructed and whitewashed, adding a metal fence around the pond. This structure, too, was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake, and Kathmandu Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya’s attempt to surround the pond with cafes and shops was vehemently opposed by the local community.
Finally, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is giving Rani Pokhari more or less its original look. After delays due to the lockdown, reconstruction is finally nearing completion.
The pond was built in 1671 by King Pratap Malla after his consort, Queen Anantapriya was devastated by the sudden death of her son, Prince Chakrawatendra Malla. The king could not bear to see his queen so distraught, so he built Rani Pokhari to soothe her, and memorialise their lost son.
It was an exquisite architectural and ecological masterpiece showcasing the meticulous craftsmanship of the Malla era. The pond was consecrated with the crystal clear waters from 51 sacred sites from all over the subcontinent.
On the south side of the pond there still stands a statue of an elephant bearing King Pratap Malla and his two sons Chakrawatendra and Mahipatendra. Four smaller temples protect the central temple from the four cardinal points.
Besides its beauty, the pond was also an engineering feat. It was fed by an intricate underground network of channels to keep it full throughout the year. It also served to manage the surface water around in the area during monsoon, so that runoff from as far as Asan market would empty into the pond and overflow past farmlands down to Tukucha Rivulet in the east.
Because Rani Pokhari recharged ground water, it kept the water sources like hitis and wells in the surroundings flowing even in the dry season. The pond bed was lined with semi-permeable black clay (dyo cha) so it retained water but also allowed some of it to seep through. The pond thus served as a rainwater reservoir that not just replenished groundwater, but also irrigated nearby farms.
“Rani Pokhari shaped the water management system around the area at that time,” says Sudarshan Tiwari, professor at the Institute of Engineering and a conservation architect.