Ashok Binayak – A Tribute to the Remover of Obstacles
Dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesha, the shrine of Ashok Binayak is one of the most visited religious sites in the complex of structures known as Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. With its intricate decoration, raised position and dark pink coloring, Ashok Binayak is an easily recognizable landmark among the protected monuments on the eastern side of the square, near the bustling vegetable and flower market of Durbar Square. Depicted with an elephant head and considered to be the Remover of Obstacles, among many other attributes, Ganesha is one of the most widely venerated of the Hindu gods. All Hindu sects, regardless of their affiliations, pay homage to Ganesh. The temple is a respected pilgrimage site for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, who all worship Ganesha.
The temple was remodeled in about 1850, but it is unclear as to when it was initially built. Its reputation as a pilgrimage site is said to be as a result of an ancient priest who was known for initiating pious rituals, attracting worshippers from far and wide, and from the wealthy and influential inhabitants of Nepal, to the most poor, all have freedom to worship at the Ashok Binayak temple. It is said that the miraculous idol of Ganesha was found on the spot where the temple is currently situated, in an area that was once an overgrown jungle. The legend continues that the temple was built in the jungle, long before the area was cleared and other buildings were erected.
The temple takes its name from the Ashok trees which grew there. This tall evergreen tree, with its deep green foliage and colorful, fragrant glowers, is also known as the “sorrow-less” tree and features prominently in the cultural traditions of the people living on the Indian Subcontinent and surrounding areas. A stone-carved image of Ganesha stands below a golden likeness of an Ashok tree at the temple. On the eighth day of Dashain, the chariot of Lord Ganesha is paraded through the streets, with the locals offering flowers along the way.
While appreciating the history and archeological value of the Ashok Binayak shrine, when pilgrims visit the temple in Kathmandu it is with the main aim of worshiping and receiving blessings from Ganesha – the Remover of Obstacles.