Wednesday, 25 November, 2020
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OPINION

Ponds That Once Were



Aashish Mishra

Back in the 14th century, there was a huge ground in the middle of Pimbahal, Patan. During the day, it was a lively place but at night, frightening mythical creatures called Lakhes came out to roam.
The Lakhes were a menace. They came every night, made loud noises, broke into people’s homes, scared the kids and caused trouble. The locals had to silently tolerate everything because the Lakhes were too strong and terrifying. Even the king’s soldiers could not fight them. Those who could, moved out and those who couldn’t, continued suffering.
The Lakhe terror continued unabated for years or perhaps, even decades until one night, the fabled tantric Gaya Baje decided to put an end to it. Himself a resident of Pimbahal, he had had just about enough of the Lakhes’ atrocities and used his magical powers to bring them under his control. He saw that as long as the ground existed, the Lakhes would keep coming. So, he directed the abominations to dig a pond there. They did as instructed and Pimbahal Pond came into existence.
Another story associated with the pond also has to do with a Lakhe; except this one is about a Lakhe wanting to help his wife. The tale goes that at the time, there were no ponds in the core area of Patan, which is why communal taps went dry during the winter. This caused great difficulty for the Lakhe’s wife who had to walk great distances to fetch water during winters. The Lakhe could not bear to see this trouble. So, he woke up one night and dug a pond near his home. The pond is today’s Pimbahal Pond.
So devoted was the Lakhe that he completed the entire pond in one night. His primary objective was to create a water source close by so his wife wouldn’t have to go far. But he also wanted to build a reservoir that would collect water and allow it to seep into the ground, preventing the taps and water spouts from drying.
The veiled message from our forefathers and through the Lakhe’s legend was that our ancestors tried to tell us the true purpose of ponds. They are a kind of natural batteries that recharge our underground water table. They feed our spouts and wells. They collect rainwater and prevent the waterlogging of our soil which would in turn cause flooding and landslides. They are both the tap and the drain. They give us water and also take the excess away. They are part of our water circulation system.
Unfortunately though, our governments of the past did not understand this. That is why they encroached upon or entirely covered up many important ponds. Prayag Pokhari was a culturally significant pond near Lagankhel, Lalitpur that the Panchayat government filled up and built the District Sports Development Committee’s building over there. People used to pray there on the day of Gai Jatra for the eternal peace of their departed relatives. With the pond gone, the practice too has died.
Similarly, the Ta Pokhari of Kumaripati once covered an area of 11 Ropanis before the authorities covered most of it and auctioned off the land for money. Today, the pond’s size is less than a quarter of what it once was. There was an equally large Kamal Pokhari in Pulchowk but it got covered up to make space for the then Lalitpur Municipality’s office, Tri-Padma School and a tourist bus park. Saptapatal Pokhari in Lagankhel, Khichapokhari in Sundhara and countless other ponds in the valley have met the same fate.
The authorities had even tried to fill in the Pimbahal Pond in 1967 to build a market. Thanks to local opposition, the government backed off.

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