The Heritage Shops of Asan Tole

By Royal Mountain Travel December 18, 2012


Any local of Kathmandu Valley knows where ‘ghyao-tel pasal’ is. In fact, there are half a dozen such shops. They are to be found behind the Annapurna Temple (Asanmaru Ajima) in Asan Tole, the historical, cultural, religious and commercial center of the Valley. At one corner is the Asanmaru Ajima (The Goddess of Abundance) and close to it, are a row of small shops selling ghee, oil, chaku (molass) and candles. That’s all these small shops have been selling for the last hundred years or so! With no individually identifying name, they are simply known as ‘ghyao-tel pasal’ meaning, ghee-oil shop. Many Newar families have made their fortunes through the business acumen of ‘Tel Sahus’ (oil merchants) and ‘Ghyao Sahus’ (ghee merchants). Today too, their great grandsons sit on small cushions in those tiny ‘heritage shops’.


Grand Wool Center in Kamalachi Lane of Asan could also be said to be a heritage shop. It is one of the most successful businesses in the Tuladhar community, who make up most of the old timers of business in Asan.  ‘Tula’ means scale. Another heritage shop is Shankha Pasal (Conch Shop) at the opposite on the road going towards Indra Chowk. It was the first one to start the spice trade in Nepal in addition to selling conches. Near to it and opposite the Machhindra Bahal is a shop dealing in brass and copperware. It is simply called, ‘Tama Pasal’ (Copper Shop). It too has gone through a couple of generations and is today run by the third generation of the family. Tama and pital gagris (copper and brass water vessels) are the most important items they sell along with a variety of household utensils and items for religious purposes. Once upon a time, gagris were essential wedding gift items. Ganesh Mandir Pachadi ko Mithai Pasal (The Sweetmeat Shop Behind Ganesh Temple) too is an ancient shop near the Kamalachi Lane which sells mostly traditional Newari sweetmeats.

Just There

The word Asan is a derivative of the word Ansaa:, which means ‘just there’ in Newari. According to a myth, a fish fell out of the sky during a heavy rainfall at the place called Asan today. This was big news and people began asking each other, “where did it fall, do you know?’ “Ansaa:”was the prompt response (meaning, “Just there”). The place thus became known as Asan. There is said to be a shrine built to mark the place where the fish landed.


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