Asan: Kathmandu’s Historic Square

With six streets leading onto it, the historic square of Asan in the city of Kathmandu is always bustling with activity. Serving as a marketplace and venue for ceremonial festivities, Asan is considered to be one of the finest examples of a Newari bazaar, with the majority of the population living in the area being members of the Shrestha, Tuladhar, Shakya and Bajracharya castes of the Newari tribe. Lying on one of Kathmandu’s India-Tibet trade routes running from Kathmandu Durbar Square to the northeast, Asan has been a trading hub since ancient times and continues to be so. Serving an essential role in the day to day lives of the people who live there, Asan is also a popular tourist destination where shoppers can buy anything from foodstuffs to textiles, and bullion to electronics. In addition to the market aspect of the square, Asan is home to some of Kathmandu’s most outstanding architectural and cultural treasures.

As is customary in every traditional Newar neighborhood, one of Asan’s most prominent landmarks is a temple dedicated to Ganesh. As one of the most widely worshipped deities, Ganesh garners devotion from all Hindu sects regardless of their affiliations, and is worshipped by Jains and Buddhists as well. Revered as the remover of obstacles, deva of wisdom and intellect and patron of arts and sciences, Ganesh has the head of an elephant with varying accounts of how this came about.

A temple dedicated to Annapurna Ajimā, the patron deity of Asan and the goddess of abundant grain, is another important feature of the square. There is also a small temple to the Hindu deity of Narayan on Asan, while the Yita Chapā features shrine rooms and a hall where locals gather for worship. A stone figure of a fish, referred to as Nyālon, lies on a pedestal at the square’s center, marking the spot where according to legend a fish fell from the sky, while a stone platform in the square is used for religious rituals during the many festivals held in Asan, including Dyah Lwākegu, Jana Baha Dyah Jatra and Kumāri Jātrā.