An Alley Full of Stories

Have you ever found an alley that is about ten homes long and still full of stories to it? I have.

I have always fallen in love with dark, long gallies of Kathmandu Valley. Part of it has to do with having mamaghar in Bhaktapur, part of it has to do with being curious on what lied behind rows of houses and part of it has to do with being awed by the fact that these gallies, most of the time are hidden in plain sight. One such gallies that has been my favorite ever since I have come to know of its existence is Mo: Madu Galli.

Mo: Madu Galli is the small alley right behind the Krishna Mandir, in between two popular tourist hotspots – D Square Café and Third World Restaurant. It is the galli with the famous sweet shop – Nanda Mithai Bhandar. The name of the galli, according to cultural historian Dilendra Raj Shrestha, is derived from Chinnamasta Temple, also located there. Mo: in Nepal Bhasha means head and Madu means absent. Chinnamasta Goddess is a rup of bhawani without head. The temple also has a tantric mural depicted in its wall. 

According to Radha Krishna Rajkarnikar, the fourth generation of family involved in the sweet business, Nanda Mithai Bhandar has been in that particular location for about 140 years. They shifted here from another location nearby in Mangal Bazar itself. He shares that the majority of the houses with wooden windows in the galli are from the same time period which has also been renovated after the 1934 earthquake. After the recent earthquake, a lot of the houses have developed cracks but most of them are alright. Some  houses are partially damaged. He also added that the business itself was obviously slow with primary reason being most of the people were concerned about getting their own lives back on track and that included taking care of their own houses. Another reason is the closure of the Durbar Square, at the time when it was written and the absence of flow of tourists that affects all businesses in the area. 

Another interesting thing about the shop is that it provides an important space in the Kartik Nach tradition. It is where the actor playing Hiryankashipu is taken for to be revived after the battle with Narsingh. And the priest from the Degu Talegu temple revives him after sprinkling water from the Mangal hiti, taken at a very auspicious time.

It’s a bit amazing to know that the ten-houses stretch, narrow galli behind the Krishna Mandir could have so much stories to it. And this is one of the reasons why I love these narrow dark spaces so much. It might be another stretch of alley for normal people, but for me, it’s full of secrets and mysteries waiting to be unfolded.