At festival time, Asan is not just full of shoppers but also tourists
who come to observe the shoppers
At nine in the morning as Kathmandu prepares for the upcoming Dasain festival, Kathmandu’s Asan market street is getting ready for another big day.
While some shops have already set up and started business, others are dusting out shutters and preparing to open to customers. By noon, it is already peak hour and nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of the crowds of shoppers on the streets.
After seeing a drop in shoppers after the earthquake that destroyed some houses in Asan and many of the temples in the nearby Hanuman Dhoka Complex, it looks from the hustle and bustle this week that the market has regained its former glory.
Amidst the timber props holding up earthquake-damaged buildings is a five-storey fabric shop. The current owners, Rakesh Agrawal and his brother, who inherited the store from their forefathers, have been selling cloth to generations of Dasain shoppers.
“For the first time we saw a drop in customers last year because of the earthquake, but with Dasain, Tihar and the marriage season, things are back to normal this year. There will always be customers here in Asan,” says Rakesh Agrawal.
Adorned with a variety of goods such as ladles and pots and pans, garments, fresh vegetables, to essence sticks and other ritualistic accessories, on either side of the cobble stone street, Asan has come to be more than just a market place for its valley residents. It is a way of life.
Located at the heart of old Kathmandu, Asan, Makhan and Indrachok are busy all times of year, but it is during Dasain and Tihar that the traditional markets are abuzz with activity. Over the years, Kathmandu has been overtaken by shopping complexes, malls, and department stores. But here in Asan time stands still.
It is for this reason that Asan is not just full of shoppers, but also tourists who come to observer the shoppers – adding to the crowds. As festive season begins, the crowds are cheek to jowl and this moving mass of teeming humanity is a tourist attraction in itself.
Shoppers, tourists and the occasion street fauna are not all one has to deal with on the streets of Asan. An already packed street struggling to accommodate shoppers also has to make way for blaring motorcyclists, rickshaws with tourists, and even taxis and delivery vans.
Pramila Neupane, a resident of Mulpani, changed two tempos and spent more than an hour to get to Asan to buy puja bhada and Dasain clothes for her children. She says, “It is worth the trouble coming to Asan to buy the clothes and puja bhada. It may be crowded but there is a choice of goods I don’t find elsewhere.”
Another customer, Kalpana KC, a resident of Baluwatar, recalls having walked to Asan to buy vegetables every day. And even though there are now shops in Baluwatar, she still comes here to buy essentials.
She says: “There isn’t a single festival during which I don’t come to Asan. It is not easy to get around, but it offers what other markets do not: A sense of belonging.”
The first day of Dasain, Jan Møller Hansen
Asan's Annapurna, Desmond Doing