Maru Ganesha or gaju maru gane’ dyao has popularly known in the local language is the other name of Ashok Vinayak . The striking feature of this temple is that it doesnot have a Gajur. To know what is Gajur, let me explain a bit about the Nepali architecture. Most of the temples in Nepal is usually pagoda style of architecture. All the features of pagoda style can be found in these temples like cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest (tundal). The two level roofs are of copper with gold covering. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets and another important feature of the temple is that it will have a gold pinnacle, (Gajur), which is a symbol of religious thought. Since this temple doesn’t have a gold pinnacle its popularly known as Gaju maru Ganesh/ a shrine without Gajur or pointed part of roof . The construction date of this temple is unknown, the only known aspect is that the gilded roof was added in
the 1850 AD. The temple are trying to gather historical evidence but not much of progress in that area. The local legends say that this place where the temple is situated today was once upon a time a thick jungle and some travelers chanced upon finding this miraculous idol of Ganesha there. The story also suggest that this belonged to a time even before Hanuman Dhoka as a royal palace came into existence. At that time the place was cramped among trees, and so the temple could not get a pinnacle. Further the story also suggest that this is the reason for the Ganesha to be named Ashok Vinayak [because of lot of Ashoka trees] . The tree shaped decarnation inside the temple that is hardly seen these days, is the reminder of Ganesha’s love the Ashok tree that gave him the name.
Story behind this: Once a Malla king [from the Malladynasty ] had a dream, Ganesha asked him to build a temple for him. The king proceeded as per the order in the dream and went ahead to build a temple. The place was filled with Ashoka trees, they were all cut down and the temple was built, as the workers got ready to put the pinnacle, the king had a second dream. Ganesha ordered him not to install the the pinnacle [gajur] over the temple. Hence the gajur was not installed and since then it remained so.
This Ganesha temple is one of the four most important Ganesh shrines of the valley in Nepal. This temple is worshiped by both Hindu and Buddhists. The Ashok Vinayak temple is situated on the west of the Durbar square. The people of the Kathmandu valley believe that the four Ganesha in four corners of Kathmandu protect the peoples living there.
Since the main idol is made of stone and is fixed, a silver idol [utsava murthy] is made which is an exact replica of the stone idol. This idol is taken to the city on the eight day of Dashain [Vijayadashami] and paraded around the valley. On this day the locals offer animal sacrifice [bali]. The members of the royal family, along with their children visit to the temple to carry out rituals of Bratabandha [a ceremony that consists of chuDAkarna चूडाकरण and उपनयन upanayana], rice feeding [read as अन्नादन - annadana] and wedding.
Likewise, visiting to this temple is a must for every monarch [something like a part of coronation ceremony] . So many devotees throng the temple that it is said that a devotee hardly gets enough space in front of the temple to sit and pray.
The next in the list of the 4 important Ganesha is the Jal Vinayak Temple ( Jal means water & Vinayak is Lord Ganesh ), just below the Chobar Gorge , on the riverbank, this wonderful shrine is located. This temple is also a very old one and dates back to 1603 AD. The temple had some renovations in the early 20th century. There is a very ancient and a bit worn out idol of Umamaheshwar, on the eastern side of this temple which predates the temple by another 500 years. In short nothing definite can be told about the dating of this temple, with all possibility that it existed even earlier.
Here Ganesha image is like that of a elephant-headed huge rock. The image within the ancient temple is an impression on a large rock that resembles an elephant’s head. The elephant’s head on the human body is, of course, how we recognize Ganesh, as distinct from the images of other gods and goddesses. The name Jal Vinayak comes from Nepali jal -water and vinayak another name for Lord Ganesh. The triple roofed temple’s strut depicts Astha Bhairav [अष्टभैरव] and Ashta Matrikas [ अष्टमातृका] with whom Ganesh always appears. The lower roof, Ganesha appears with beautiful female figures standing beside him & tiny, brightly painted erotic depictions below[ suggesting tantric image]. Mushak stands in the courtyard facing the shrine.
Manjushri, [Saraswati, avatar] is supposed to have cut the gorge open to drain the lake,Taudaha[read note] All the rivers and lakes of the Kathmandu valley are believed to exit the valley via Chobar. There are many stories that mention how a very powerful nag (snake) inhabited the lake almost escaped when Manjushri cut open the gorge to drain the water. Jal Vinayak, showed Manjushri where another smaller lake in the valley could be made for the nag to dwell. Thus, the residents of the valley would not have to go without rain [snake is associated with rain].
Tuesdays at Jal Vinayak temple is particularly crowded, celebration of Annaprasha [अन्नप्राश], vrata for finding good groom, bless couple with children. There is also a huge flat stone inside the temple premises, devotees lie down on it and it is believed to have powers to cure ailments like backache. The offerings made to this Vinayak are flowers, eggs, vermilion powders or incense. Mainly this temple belongs to the Newari community[see notes]
The third in the list is the Karya Vinayak. Very little is known about this Ganesha, and I don’t have any stories connected to the temple. The twin villages of Bagmati & Khokana dates back to 16th century and are located towards the south of Kathmand. The shrine of Karya Vinayak is located right between the two villages. Historians and experts, as well as locals, believe that the village was established as early as the 7th century. It was then known as Bugayumi, However, due to the lack of supporting accounts and documents, Bungamati’s beginnings are historically marked on the record as sometime in the 16th century, so the temple could be dating back to somewhere around the 7th century. Again this temple belongs to the Newari community, and very less is known abt the historic or the mythologic background of this temple. Newari community devotees pray to this swayambu Ganesha on a saturday [ not sure as to why saturday is the chosen day for puja] for a bhoj and bhajan. This temple is poorly maintained, but the scenery of the place is breathtaking.
The fourth and the final Ganesha in the list is situated in the beautiful surroundings of Bhadgaon, placed in a sylvan setting to catch the first rays of the rising sun. At the top of the hill, a steep flight of stairs leads up to Surya Binayak shrine. One need to climb some steps to reach the temple above and the both sides of the steps are covered with trees that looks like a forest, but not so dense. On the bottom of the steps, there are few shops that sell the elements required in worship, gifts and idols and images of the god. There is a gate at each end of the temple as well as each end of the steps. Ganesha temple is is set in a shady forest and HE dwells beneath a golden torana and a big white shikhara. Mounted on a pillar in front of his image is a statue of a large and very realistic looking mushak, his vahana. At the top of the hill once you take a walk for about another five minutes, is a shrine to Ganesh’s mother, Parvati.
He is called Surya Vinayak here, or the Sun Ganesha and the reason for this the first place in the valley that the suns rays reach the earth first thing every morning. Devotees come here and pray if their children are having trouble learning how to speak. Ganesha is known as a “curing doctor” especially for deaf and dumb Devotees offer radishes, ladoo and sesame seed balls to Ganesha here.
You can find shelters for the priests to live in. On the right side of the statue, there is a huge bell whose handle is tied to an iron chain and on the two sides of the temple holding the idol, bells are hung by the devotees. Another striking feature is the numerous mirrors offered to Ganesha by the devotees hanging around the temple.
उपनयन : A ceremony in which a Guru draws a boy towards himself and initiates him into one of the three twice-born classes. Followed by both Hindus and Buddhists, read more here
Newari community : The Newa people or Newars are the people of Nepal, Kathmandu Valley. Nepal is the learned Sanskrit form and Newar is the colloquial Prakrit form. Read more here
Taudaha: Tau in Newari means gigantic and daha in Nepali means lake, hence the name Taudaha for ‘a huge lake’ (though Taudaha is not so ‘huge’).
अन्नप्राश -Annaprasha, feeding rice into a child’s mouth for the first time