A Spot to take your Pain Away

Where am I Issue 212 Jul, 2019
Text by Asmi Banjara

Kathmandu is a city filled with traditional and famous temples that attract hundreds of people everyday, such as Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and those in the valley’s Durbar Squares, which are sight-seeing places for foreigners, hangout spot for youngsters as well as sacred and religious sites. However in addition to these there are many smaller spots that have fascinating stories behind them if you look closely enough.

In the narrow yet busy walkway which felt more like a maze, I was roaming the smaller streets of Thamel heading towards New Road when I came across an unusually big chunk of wood with coins nailed to it in the corner of the street. If the popularity of the busy hustle of many jewelry and trinket shops, bookstores, food stalls and restaurants in Thamel are overlooked and instead you explore further through to New Road, on the much smaller paths, many hidden gems such as the temple above can be found.

The strange story behind the temple is known by many of the locals and it is still believed in to this day by the neighborhood. It is said that the chunk of wood is from a legendary tree and is called Bangemudha, meaning “curved log.” This log acts as wishing well to those who need toothache relief. The open shrine is hidden away in a corner but with the amount of coins placed on the piece of wood, it is very striking. The shrine is said to relief tooth pain if a coin is nailed into the log. The pain relief costs just a single coin offered to the Newar God, Vaishya Dev who is the God of toothaches. However, other things such as pots of rice and nuts are also sometimes used to worship the God. However, if the wish is not granted, the whole street around the shrine is filled with colorful signs advertising practicing dentists and orthodontists which makes it look like a dental care center in the middle of the old Kathmandu street; it feels like we have been taken back decades and these bright old signs advertising dentistry elevate the environment and surroundings of what Kathmandu used to be like.

Inside the main hole of the shrine there is also said to be a small, statue which is what’s actually being worshipped but the coins cover every inch of the wood making it not visible anymore. This superstitious site is still well known as I saw some of the locals who know the story, mostly Newars, continuing to visit this spot in hopes of getting their wish granted before going to an actual dentist to take their pain away.

I have been here many times before but when I first came across this shrine as a little girl taking a walk with my mom in the old streets, I still remember my surprise at its odd story and believed it was made up. However, as I saw other sites such as this one I realized there are many smaller temples in Nepal with much bigger and richer history behind them.