How the Streets are named in CAT-MAN-DO
Daya R. Shakya, Portland, Oregon
When I went back to Nepal after living in the US for 5 years, I saw a
big change. Lots of new buildings appeared. In many places new markets
were run from naanglo pasal to super markets. I saw many waalaas of
Indian origin selling fruits and vegetables on unridable bikes. I also
noticed that some clubs (Maybe Rotary Club) have put street signs
almost every where in the city. One of the most eye catching names for
me was "Chab Hill" a place located on the way to Boudha. To my
knowledge, I never recall this name being used in the history of
Kathmandu Valley. Was it a mistake or did a new name appeared in
Kathmandu ? I could not figure it out right away. I asked myself how
many streets had been renamed and how many localities had disappeared
from Kathmandu in the process of developmental activities undertaken by
the Kathmandu Nagar Vikash Yojana (An urban development project for
Kathmandu Valley). I realized how many names had disappeared from the
Valley. Definitely, the Chakra Path or Ring Road is new for old folks.
However, the new generation may not have heard about some of the
original names for many localities. In order to locate many places
within the ancient boundary of the Kathmandu city, one has to
participate in the Upaaku Wonegu Ceremony (a festival similar to Mati
yaa in Patan) that takes place on the first day of Indra Jaatraa. On
this day, family members of a deceased person go around the boundary of
ancient Kathmandu city offering the Palchaa Lamp ( a small offering
lamp made of earthen pot with oil and wick ) in every shrine they come
across on the way. (For detail see Mary Slusser's ' Nepal Mandala' ).
My focus in this article is to draw your attention to how the
streets and localities were originally named in Kathmandu city. At this
time many of the original names have almost faded away from our
memories. Many of the local names of streets and localities are based
on Newar names that have been changed into new forms. The impact of
change is gradually leading towards the disappearance of the legitimate
and original names of many localities.
Historical evidence shows that the name KATHMANDU has been
linked with a phrase "KASTHA MANDAPA". It refers to a mandapa or
pavilion, built with wood of a single tree in the 17th century, and
named Maru Satala. It is located near the Kathmandu Ganesh shrine ( The
Gaju maru Ganesh/ a shrine without Gajur or pointed part of roof ).
Before this the present Kathmandu Valley was known as the Nepal Valley.
The same name KASTHA MANDAPA became KATHMADAUN and KATMANDU or
CAT-MAN-DO in Westerner's tongue.
On the one hand the tri-cities of ancient Nepal Valley
Kantipur, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are also known as 'Yen', 'Yala' and
'Khwopa' in Newar Language. They have been called Kathmandu, Patan and
Bhaadgaaon in Nepali. In addition, the towns located in suburban area
of the valley Banepa, Dhulikhel, and Kirtipur are also known as Bhota,
Dhaukhyah and Kepu in Newar language. The civilization of the Kathmandu
valley is credited to the original inhabitants, the Newars. They have
decorated the entire city with beautiful arts and artifacts that
reflects the unique culture in the valley.
As time passes by people adopt new life styles, and give up
the old ones. Similarly, many of us prefer to use new names for the
streets and localities. However, we are not aware of many original
names. Each street and locality carries a back ground story for their
existing names. In search of forgotten names of streets and localities,
I realized that many of them are disappearing and our descendants may
not know the stories related to them .The old names seem odd for them.
At present, there are many key places in KATHMANDU. One time
the street NEWROAD was popular and eye catching for many people living
in Kathmandu. People went over there to buy newspaper, gather for
political chats and get their shoes polished. The original name of New
Road was Juddha SaDak. It was also known as the Nhu SaDak in Newar
language which means Naya SaDak. Later it became "New Road". Similarly
there are many places that carry a name linked with a meaningful Newar
word. However, at present some of those places have been renamed or
changed into different forms. You may have noticed that many of streets
and localities carry following suffixes:
Gah Place of production; old name for city or Nagara,
Twaa Local Community
Baha Buddhist Monastary
Galli Lane/ Alley
Mati Mother of Water Source
Cho Hill top
Laachhi Off the house area
Chuka Court yard
Dhwaakhaa Gate / Entrance
Each of these suffixes hold a meaning, and a prefix is added
to it depending upon a back ground story on the naming of the location.
Many of these locations are also mentioned in several Newar folk songs
such as Rajamatikumati, Wa chhu galli Thwochhu galli, Siloo Tirtha etc.
It is interesting to know that a personal name is not used to
name the street or locality in the ancient and medieval periods of
Nepal Valley. However, in modern times with an influence of Rana and
Shaha people, the streets and localities have been named after people
such as Juddha SaDak, Ratna Park, Ram Shaha Path, Sukra Path, Dharma
Path, Gangaa Path, Lekh Nath Marga, Bhimshen Stambha, Singha Darwar,
Mahendra Nagar, Birendra Nagar, Prithvi Raj Marga, Mahendra Raj Marga
etc. With this concept, some of the old streets have been renamed.
Since this article is focused on original names, a discussion of modern
names is not intended here.
The street names and localities with above mentioned suffixes
and their historical meaning have been listed below. The name with the
suffixes not listed above are placed into different category. The
meaning of street names which are not attested with reference materials
and unable to be analyzed at this time are placed in a category of (?).
The streets which are still called by the same name are listed with (=)
sign. It would be appreciated if any one who has information on the
unanalyzed word, contact the writer.
To conclude, the historical importance of each name of every
corner of Kathmandu valley is undeniable. Before it is too late it is
the time to teach our descendants about the localities of the Valley
and keep them aware of original names. By doing this they get a special
pleasure of knowing and understanding the ancient civilization of our
ancestors. It would be an interesting topic for research on ancient
cities in the Valley.
Original Names Current Historical Names
Gah (Place of Production)
Kilaga: Kilagal Kisi gah - Elephant Barn
Cikanmuga: Chikanmugal Place of oil production
Tengah Tengal Sheep Wool production
Gha: (Water Vessel)
Wangha:/Hwongha: Indrachok Silver Vessel/Junction
Nhugha: Jaisi Dewal New Water vessel
Nagha: Naghal Iron water vessel
Si:gha Srigha: Vihar Copper vessal
Hiti (Stone Spout)
Bhotahiti = A spout built by a merchant from Bhota (Banepa)
Maruhitu = A spout near by Middle town (Maru Ganesh )
Thahiti = A Spout installed in North side of town
Kohiti = A Spout installed in South side of town
Naranhiti = A spout installed near Narayan shrine
Kel twaa Kel Tol An ancient town of shakyas from Koliya
Bhindya twaa Bhimsen Than Bhimsen Shrine
Khiu twaa Khiul Tol An area of Dark street
Nhaayekan twaa = Nhaekan Talla = A temple decorated with mirrors
Naayetwaa = Kasai Tole= Animal Slathering Area (Butcher Residence)
Pore twaa = Pore Tole = Street sweepers residential area
Lagan twaa = Lagan = Place of dried water source
( La: Gan)
Bramhutwaa = Bhramha Tole = Brahmans living place
Guchaa twaa = Guchchaa Tole = Marble playing place
Baha (Buddhist Monastry)
Jana Baha Jana Bahal Jana Maa Dyo is located
khA baha Khabaahal Early roosters singing area
Chusya Baha = Chhusya Bahal = where wheat is grown
Te baha = Tebahal/ Sankata = south east region of the Ancient city
Itumbaahaa = Itum bahal = Clear water well area (Yechu tun)
Jyaabaahaa Jyaabahal ?
Om Baha Om Bahal ?
Bhagawan Bahaa Bhagawan bahal ?
Sabal Baha Sabal Bahal ?
Bahi (Buddhist Sub-Monastary)
Khusi bahi = Khushi bahil = river side monatry
Naka bahi = Nabahil = A monastery established around Black smith (Nakarmi)
Chaa bahi= Chaa Bahil = A Monastery built in the name of Princess Charumati the Daughter of Emperor Ashoka
Than Bahi = Thamel = A sub monastery located in Thane( North) area
Galli (Lane / Allay)
Tamo Galli = Coppersmiths allay
Namuga: galli = A place where one can buy hammers
Tunchhen galli = Place where a house is build above a well
Sikanmu galli = A lane where Carpenters live
Taa galli = ? = A lane which is longest in length
Pun Chen Galli = A lane where paintes live
Chokhaache Galli = ?
Gwaachhimo galli = ?
Mati (River Name)
Kalmati Kalimati A place where one never wants to go. Only dead people are taken there
Bishnumati = A River that come out of Bishnu Paduka source
Baghmati = A river that came out of Tiger dwelling forest
Khya Keba = Khya keba = Large size garden
Phasi keba = Phasi Keba = pumpkin garden
Bhaukeba = Bhau keba = A garden dedicated to Bhagavati shrine
Paacho (Sloppy Area)
Nyatapaacho = A sloppy area near Nyeta (Naradevi)
Naaye pacho = A area near by butchers' residence
Khichaa Pukhu: = Khichaa Pokhari = baby waste washing area
Ikhaa Pukhu: = Ikhaa Pokhari = spitting Pond
Paleswan Pukhu = Kamal Pokhri = lotus flower Pond
Kwaapukhuu = Kwaapokhu = warm spring water pond
Pakopukudyaan = Paako = A pond near the sloppy area
Dilli Bazar = A market run by Muslims from Delhi
Bagh Bazar = A market established near by Bagh Darwar
Naya Bazar = A market newly established
Raki Bazar = ? A market run by Iraqi people near Indra Chowk
Cho (Hill Top)
Jaamaacho = ?
Phuchwo Phulchoki ?
Dhilachwo = ?
Sipu:chwo = ?
Itun khyaa = Tundikhel =A field belong to Itum baha people
Burn khyaa: = Bhurun khel = A field fermented heap of rice
Gwonga: bu = gwongabu = Wild rooster field
Lachhi (Off the house area)
Ka:mi lachi = Kamalakchi Carpenters area
Kamalachhi = Kamaladi ?
Kusum biyaa laachhi = ?
Taanani = Longest block in town
Haepun nani = A block where a painter who sells ducks
Piga: nani = A block with four ways of exit
Jhoh chhen = Nicely built row of houses
Dalaachhen = Houses with Dalan (New kind of doors)
Ta:khaa chhen = A house with huge door lock
Chuka (A courtyard Sorrounded by houses)
Dambo: chuka = ?
Asan chuka = A chuka located in Ason tole
baidya Chuka = The Vaidya court yard.
Dhwaakhaa (Gate / Entranace)
Hanuman Dhokaa = A gate near by the Hanuman Shrine Kishi DhwAkhaaa = A house with elephant carvings
Tinkha: dhwaakhaa = Tundikhel Dhokaa = The entrance gate to Tundikhel
Tankeswor = Pith (Shrine)
Kankeswor = Pith (Shrine)
Gyaaneswor = Mahadev Shrine
Baaneswor = Mahadev Shrine
Bijyaasa: = Vijeswori = Yogini Devi Shrine
Nhya:khaa = Nhyakhaa tole = Roosters wake up early
Hyumata = Hyumata tole = Where a swinging lamps is taken outduring the Indra Jatra Festival
DhokAdha: = Dhokaa Tole = A sewarage linked with river and old palace
Yangaa = Yangaal = lowest area of 'Yen' (Kathmandu) Tamsingpaaakhaa = slopy area of taega simaa (a kind of tree)
Maji paa: = Majipaata = Modified form of Manju Pattana
lhuti= Balaju lon hiti > stone tap place
Desaye maru jhyaa= A unique window/no duplicate
Taahachal =A place where long landslide takes place
Tekhu = Teng khu > ancient river bank (?)Masu Sata: Marusatal A rest house near by Maru Ganesh shrineTeku duwaa Teku dobhaan Junction of two rivers Bagmati & Bishnumati Jyathaa = Where elderly people work as potters
Jorganesh =A shrine with a Pair of Ganesh images.
Poka nhaaye dya:= Paaknajol = A shrine of liquor god Thaaemadu Bange Mudha = Very crowded area
Bhyaachaa dya = Bheda Singh = Where a sacrifice sheep Lumari dya = Bhadrakali = Pieces of bread turned into gold Dwon chasaana = Animal waste used as fertilizer for
Penga: Thaan = A shrine erected with four stone pillers Nyeta NaradeviNyakuu tan = Place of animal horn stack
Sunta gaan Sunaar gaau Non Newar goldsmiths village
Hati saar = Off the City Elephant Barn
Naksaa= Naksal = A town near Naksagar Bhagawati Shrine Tripureswor = A place with Tripura Sundari Shrine
Thaapaa thu: = Thapaa Thali = A hill top of Thapa people Pulan bhansaa:= Puraano Bhansaar = A old custom clearance Pyaa pha: = Pyaaphal = Animal resting place (usually wet) Balkumaari = A place where a shrine Bal Kumari is located
Lainchour = Radish field
Dhobichour = Washermen's laundary drying area
Bhata Bhateni = Shrine name
Battish Putali= 32 angles came down in the form of butterflies