Asan (Nepal Bhasa: असं, Nepali: असन) (alternative names: Asan Tol असन टोल, Asan Twāh असं त्वाः) is a ceremonial, market and residential square in central Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. It is one of the most well-known historical locations in the city and is famed for its bazaar, festival calendar and strategic location. Asan has been described as one of the fine Newar examples of a traditional Asian bazaar. The Tuladhar, Shrestha, Bajracharya and Shakya castes make up most of the population.
Six streets converge on Asan giving the square a perpetual bustle. The bazaar at Asan attracts shoppers from all over Kathmandu because of the tremendous variety of merchandise sold here, ranging from foodstuffs, spices and textiles to electronics and bullion.
Asan is also one of the popular tourist spots in the city because of its architectural sights and charming ambiance. There are banks, restaurants and a post office. Two taxi stands and bus stops are situated on the eastern side.
Asan straddles one of the two legendary India-Tibet trade routes that pass through Kathmandu. Because of this history, Asan has been one of the city's main marketplaces since ancient times. The trade route is diagonally aligned, and the section within the city extends from Kathmandu Durbar Square to Asan and to the northeast.
- The temple of Annapurna Ajimā (alternative name: Asanmaru Ajimā असंमरु अजिमा) presides over Asan. She is the goddess of abundant food grain and is the patron deity of the neighborhood. The goddess is represented by a filled grain measure.
- A temple of Ganesh (alternative name Ganedya गनेद्य:) stands at the northern side of the square. The temple was renovated and its tile roofs were replaced in 1928. Every traditional Newar neighborhood has a Ganesh shrine.
- Nyālon (न्यालोहं) meaning "fish stone" is the stone figure of a fish placed on a pedestal at the center of the square. It marks the spot where a fish fell from the sky and is related to the legendary founding of Asan.
- A small temple dedicated to the deity Narayan stands at the northwestern side of the square.
- Yita Chapā (यिता चपा:) meaning "southern pavilion" is the long building on the southern side. It contains shrine rooms and a hymn hall where locals gather to sing hymns.
- Asan Dabu is a stone platform where sacred dances and musical performances are held during festivals. At other times it is covered by shops.
- The streets and lanes radiating out from the square contain shrines and sacred courtyards. The Buddhist courtyards of Takse Bāhā, Kwathu Bāhā, Hāku Bāhā, Dhālāsikwa Bāhā, Dagu Bāhā, Asan Bāhā and Hwakhā Bāhā are situated around the perimeter of the square. Each of them contains a decorated shrine house with an image of the Buddha and assorted stupas.
Asan is a cultural and religious center and is the venue for a number of festivals and processions.
- Dyah Lwākegu (द्य: ल्वाकेगु) is one of the most important festivals of Asan. Three portable shrines containing the images of goddesses from Wotu, Tebahal and Kanga are brought to Asan for a celebration. It takes place on the second day of the Pahan Charhe (पाहां चह्रे) festival in April.
- Jana Baha Dyah Jatra (जनबहाः द्यः जात्रा) is the chariot festival of Aryavalokitesvara (Sacred Avalokiteśvara), a Buddhist deity popularly known as Jana Baha Dyah or White Machhendranath (alternative name: White Karunamaya). The chariot makes an overnight halt at Asan from where it is pulled to the next stop at Durbar Square. Devotees light butter lamps all over the square to honor the deity. The procession is held in April.
- On the second day of the chariot festival of Kumāri Jātrā, three chariots containing human representation of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari are pulled through Asan. The chariot procession is part of Indra Jatra and is known as Thaneyā (थनेया:). It is held in September.
Asan Bājan Khala (Nepal Bhasa: असं बाजं खल:) plays devotional music at Asan during festivals. Its members also make daily pilgrimages to Swayambhu in the early morning playing Gunla Bajan music during the holy month of Gunla (around August). Annapurna Gyānmala Bhajan Khala is the neighborhood society of hymn singers.
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