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GPR technology being used to trace lost stone spouts



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By Shaurya Kshatri
Kathmandu, Mar. 2: The archaeologically significant stone spouts, believed to be buried deep beneath the ground, may be unearthed with the Department of Mines and Geology conducting a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey from Monday to locate and excavate the lost monuments.
According to Thakur Prasad Kandel, Senior Divisional Geologist at the Department, this is the first time the GPR technology is being used in monitoring probable areas for lost stone spouts.
“While the technology has been used before, especially after the devastating 2015 earthquake, to create archaeological risk maps of the heritage within the three Darbar Squares of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts, it is, however, the first time that GPR technology is being used to spot and possibly excavate hidden stone water spouts,” explained geologist Kandel.  
Heritage conservationists are ecstatic over the use of modern technology in preserving lost artefacts of cultural history.
Conservationist Yadav Lal Kayastha has been a key figure in advocating the preservation of the stone spout, known among the locals as Janmadwar Hiti, or birth gateway stone water spout. Believed to be located just beneath the concrete outside the perimeter of the under-construction Dharma-Chakra park at Swoyambhu, Janma Hiti has been the subject of a constant campaign Kayastha has been leading for the last two years. 
“The site, which once used to be a major attraction, has been buried beneath for over 70 years,” he said. “It is also called Yamraj Hiti, because the stone spout used to play a significant role during death rites,” added Kayastha. According to legend, people in their deathbeds were offered water from the spout to ensure a peaceful segue into the afterlife.   
The initial GPR survey conducted on Monday was able to expose some plain and carved architectural stone remnants. However, as geologist Kandel points out, the concrete results are yet to come. “It might take a couple of days to verify if the spot underneath the Dharma-Chakra park really harbours the lost Janma Hiti,” he said. 
Present during the survey session, Ishwar Man Dangol, the chairperson of Ward-15 and spokesperson of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, however, is confident that the site is, in fact, buried deep beneath the ground.  
Once a pivotal part of everyday life, the Capital’s historic water spouts have had to bear the maximum brunt of urbanisation. In a survey of Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Management Board (KVWSMB) carried out in 2019, some 573 stone spouts were found in the Kathmandu Valley. Of them, 52 have been lost while 479 are in existence but the whereabouts of 42 others could not be ascertained. 
In the face of such neglect, the use of GPR technology is being welcomed with open arms by activists like Kayastha who have been spearheading the stone water spout conservation campaign for the last three years.