It is literally the very center of the capital, and so it’s always a crowded place, with throngs all around crowding around the many street vendors and hurrying across the overhead walkway, and numerous batuwas (pedestrians) trudging along the narrow footpaths on both sides of the extremely busy road. The traffic is horrendous, a slow, continuous procession of big green buses, medium-sized mini-buses, small micro-buses, gas and electric tempos, Prados, Pajeros, Fords, Toyotas, Hyundais, and a score other brand of sedans, hatchbacks, and SUVs, and of course, the perennial horde of motorbikes and scooters swerving their way skillfully and stunt-like among the shoulder-to shoulder cars and buses and tempos.
The centerpiece of this place, the most famous pond in the Valley, once full of clean water with lively swarms of trout swimming merrily in its shallow depths, is at present dry and arid, with some sort of construction going on. There’s a somewhat subdued debate (perhaps it’s more heated in the concerned circles) about how this historic pond should be renovated. There are those that want it to be restored to its original glory, and there are some who believe that a bit of modernization wouldn’t hurt. Anyway, this once lovely pond has lost its charm at the moment.
On one side of it, towards the grand old park of the city, beyond the tall iron fence, there’s a unique shrine that’s dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the god who is worshipped before all others among the multitude of gods that make up the great Hindu pantheon. And, it is no ordinary Ganesh shrine, although it is not as renowned as the primary Ganesh temples in the Valley, namely, Surya Vinayak in Bhaktapur, Ashok Vinayak and Kamaladi Ganesh in Kathmandu, Karyya Vinayak in Bungamati, and Jal Vinayak in Chobhar, Kirtipur.
The temple near the pond we’re talking about faces the pond instead of the street, as is the norm with other temples, and that itself is a cause of curiosity. But, more curious is the fact that the three-feet-tall figure of Ganesh inside this particular temple has sixteen hands is what makes it extra special, because this is really far and away from the norm, since most others have four hands. To those in the know, he is known as the sixteen-handed Ganesh. One hand rests on his ample middle, seven hands on each side hold various symbolic items, and one hand cuddles a figure of Siddhi, the elder of his two spouses, the other being Riddhi. Now, this cuddling of Siddhi, too, is an uncommon sight, because Ganesh is pretty fair-minded when it comes to his two wives.
All this makes this shrine quite out of the ordinary, and while there may be some among the thousands who make it a point to pay their respects to the portly god (the shrine is immediately after the walkway landing) who know about these unique aspects, there may be many more who do not. And, certainly, very few know that this temple is the place to come to with an offering of half a dozen laddoos, Ganesh’s favorite sweet, if you want to get rid of those pesky rats that have made their home in your home. Or, and it’s true, this is the place to come to if you want to settle problems with your spouse! Without getting rid of them, of course.