Pote Bazaar | Destination | ECSNEPAL - The Nepali Way

Pote Bazaar

Text by Monalisa Maharjan / Photo: ECS Media

Potes are a significant feature of married Nepali women, especially in Brahmin and Chhetri cultures. These small beaten glass beads are found in a variety of colors and they hold great importance in the life of married women as it defines their status. The Pote Bazaar in Indra Chowk, meanwhile, has its own legendary status as well.

Kathmandu has got different shades as with the changing quarters of the day most of the places seem to offer different views. Among many places, Pote Bazaar is also one which is an amazing place to wander, if not for shopping, then just to watch the glittering potes. It lies in the heart of Kathmandu i.e. New Road, just in front of Aakash Bhairab Temple. It’s one of the oldest markets of the valley. After night falls, the lights in the bazaar causes the potes to sparkle and the multi-color potes in particular, look amazing. The small shops, the hanging potes, the swarms of women customers, the busy shopkeepers – it makes for a fascinating sight. During the night you don’t seem to notice the structural parts of this bazaar except the glittery potes hanging all over the shops.

Wang: Gha

The Pote Bazaar has a different story to tell if you visit in the morning. You will wonder if this is the same place that you visited in the evening light of Kathmandu. Except few, all the shops are owned by people of the Muslim community. In the middle of the bazaar, you’ll find a Shiva Temple where there are always a considerable number of devotees at most times. At the back side of the bazaar, you’ll see statues of different gods and goddesses. Three stone pots at this site mark the place. These three stone pots are called Gha: which many people believe is the original name of this place in Newari. It is now known as Wang: Gha: At the southern part of the bazaar are also other small stone temples around which one will find tea stalls in the early morning hours.

History of Pote Bazaar
There is this interesting history of this particular Pote Bazaar and its people. Most of the shops in this bazaar are owned by the Muslims who came to Kathmandu from Kashmir as traders at the time of King Pratap Malla. Some of them settled in the valley and started doing business in glass bangles and pote. It is really amazing as to how a people from a completely different culture adapted themselves to the Newari culture while still preserving their own rituals and traditions.

Historians say that the place now known as Pote Bazaar used to be the bank of a river. After many hundreds of years, the river shifted direction and people started to settle in the area which came to be known as Indra Chowk. But still, the site of Pote Bazzar remained vacant because it used to be the place where death rituals used to be performed. King Pratap Malla however, believed that this location would be suitable for new people coming into Kathmandu. His consultations with the priests and tantrics of the valley resulted in the view that this particular place was favorable for the people who write backwards (that is, from right to left). This is how the Muslims from Kashmir got their place for business which has been carried on from one generation to the next.

This bazaar now seems to adapt itself according to the whim of its customers. Previously, where it used to offer only the traditional potes, now it has got different stylish potes, bangles of beaten glass, bags embroidered with colorful glass beads, and so on. The shopowners at this bazaar say that they are now facing tough competition with the opening of many shopping malls as well as new shops being opened in the different parts of the valley. But, when we look at the charm of this place, it seems that it is never going to lose it, a charm as appealing as the legend they were born with.