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Travel Talk

18 Jun 2014

Asan & Indrachowk


It is not exactly the main tourist attraction in Kathmandu and most of the foreign visitors who come here may miss it. But to make a stop in Asan Indrachowk, is definitely worth it.


Around Asan Indrachowk, lies an old and maybe the busiest quarter of Kathmandu. In the labyrinth of small streets and towards the north of Basantapur/Kathmandu Durbar Square, is Asan Indrachowk, retail as well as wholesale market for merchants, salesmen and regular buyers.


Very large numbers of people come for shopping to this part of the city. The offer covers fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, pashminas, beads, brass & copperwares, home appliances, carpets and much more. People bargain or browse around in the alleys of this bazaar. Between copper kettles and electrical goods, surrounded by hundreds of shoes and a variety of loose and packed spices, one will come upon many shrines and temples. These are often richly decorated with flowers and red vermilion powder. The gods, remarkably, are everywhere in Nepal.

One of these temples is Janabahal, also known as Seto Machendranath Temple. Its construction was completed during the 17th century but the work probably had already begun by the 10th century. Passing a small golden gate and a passage from the busy place Kel Tol you will reach a hidden inner yard. And suddenly Asan gets calm and peaceful.


In the courtyard, there are many different shrines and it is surrounded by small stalls where people sell things. Right in front of the passage facing the temple, there is an odd bronze statue which has features of European Victorianism.


The courtyard is home to many Pigeons like most sites in Kathmandu. Pigeons are regarded as a symbol of peace and luck here, just as in many other cultures of the world.


Janabahal Temple is dedicated to the deity Seto Machendranath and is holy to both religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet worshipped for different issues by people following these two different streams of faith.


Every year, there is a festival with a chariot procession, complimentary to this divinity. This procession Jana Baha Dyah Jatra (also called Seto Machhendranath Jatra), takes place in the Nepalese month of Chaitra and lasts for three days. 


The procession is presumably very old and believed to have been started in the 6th century. During these days, an idol of the deity is carried in a wagon along a prescribed path to different sites around Kathmandu, accompanied by a large number of followers. The dates vary from year to year since the execution follows the lunar calendar. In 2014 it will be from 7-9 April.


If you follow the many alleys of Asan Indrachowk, you get transported to interesting places, but largely, you are either in quiet religious spots or in the thick of the noisy market.


Once you enter the market space, small shrines every couple of yards here and there, remind you though, that the Gods are a part of this too! I have realized that in Nepal, no matter where you are, the Gods are never far away.




Story & Photography: Sonja Marie Michel


(Sonja Marie Michel is a German citizen, currently working as a photography intern, under the guidance of professional photographer Mr. Kumar Ale at NepalSutra™).