The ancient trade route between India and Tibet cut diagonally through Kathmandu’s city core. At its northern edge was the historical gateway to the city through which Newar merchants passed on their way to and from Lhasa.
Today a yellow concrete-and-glass commercial block stands on the spot just northwest of Rani Pokhari. The structure was built right on top of Jhanga Hiti, the ancient sunken spout that stood there till 35 years ago.
“This was the spot where families bid tearful farewell to the merchants when they left on perilous journeys across the Himalaya to Lhasa. There is no trace of this historic landmark today,” explains tourism expert Gyanendra Ratna Tuladhar. The Tibet trade thrived for centuries until the Chinese annexation in the 1950s.
Considered one of the greatest technological achievements of the Kathmandu Valley civilisation, hiti are traditional stone water spouts built inside conduit basins below the ground level, where drinking water flowed non-stop. The water was piped through underground channels made of Gathu Cha, a type of water-tight clay.