Ashok Chaitya, named after the great Emperor Ashoka, is greatly valued by the Buddhist community of the Kathmandu valley. The emperor Ashoka is believed to have propagated Buddhism in many parts of the world including North India and Nepal in the 3rd century BC. Although the stupa, also called chaitya, is named after Ashoka, there is no evidence that proves its relation with Emperor Ashoka.
People also say that the stupa is more than 2000 years old during the golden period for Buddhism in Kathmandu Valley. The origin of the chaitya is unclear and the source is hearsay. But what’s for sure is the importance of the stupa to the community of Thamel.
Thamel gives an image of beauty in chaos. When someone talks about the town, they will mostly tell you about its nightlife, food, and breathtaking antique stores. Yet there lies a peaceful and unique stupa untouched by the energetic and vigorous Thamel. Situated in Ashok Galli, now famous as a shortcut path between two major streets of Thamel- Amrit Marg and Thamel marg.
Well, the interesting feature of the stupa is its architecture. Even from a distance, it is noticeable that Ashok Chaitya doesn’t have the big white dome shape which is present in almost every stupas in the Kathmandu Valley. The upper domed part and rectangular stone base relate the chaitya to the Lichhavi period whereas the Brick portion dates it to the Malla period. During the renovation, people had discovered an inscription of an ancient period that proved its presence in the Lichhavi period.
On the day before Kojagrat Purnima, the Newari Buddhists visit the respective chaityas of their clan. It is believed that when one visits and revolves around the chaitya, it acts as a form of worshipping their ancestry. In every special occasion of Newari tradition such as ‘baaraah’, ehee, bratabandha, the ‘kul chaitya’ needs to be visited and this tradition is still prevalent among the people here.
Sanjiv Kumar Shrestha (Executive Ashok Chaitya Conservation)
Rastra Man Tuladhar (Member of Ashok Chaitya Conservation)