Kathmandu's Water Day


Through the centuries, Kathmandu Valley residents have set aside a day just before the monsoon when the groundwater table is at its lowest to clean their community wells, ponds, public water spouts, fountains and irrigation canals.

The Sithi Nakha festival of the Valley’s Newa people was marked on Wednesday, even as the city has been in Covid-19 lockdown for the past six weeks. The festival has pre-Hindu and pre-Buddhist animist antecedents but has relevance right to the present day.

Water is not just as essential utility but also considered a divide element and Sithi Nakhaon 16 June this year, is a celebration of the baby rain god Kumar on his sixth day of birth.

This corresponds with an ancient custom where birthday celebrations normally take place after the sixth day when a newly born child overcomes the risk of neonatal death, which is how the celebration gets its name ‘Sithi Nakha’, or the festival of the sixth day.

Early on Wednesday, residents of Bhaktapur entered their communal wells and ponds and cleaned their water sources as well as nearby heritage sites.

This was followed by a special feast with delicacies like Woand Chatamari, pancakes made of lentils and rice, particularly for the farmers gearing up for the four-month long planting season.

This collective practice of worshipping and cleaning water sources is, however, dying with urbanisation. As water sources dry up and the groundwater table recedes, the revival of this traditional custom holds significance for the preservation of Kathmandu’s water system.

The Nepal government in the past has directed the public to mark SithiNakha nationwide to clean water source everywhere to help prevent contamination and water-borne diseases. The festival holds more relevance with the emergence of new infectious diseases like Covid-19, and increased awareness about nature conservation and ecosystem balance.