Neath the Peepal Bot


It was almost 50 years ago that my grandfather started selling newspapers here,” says Krishna Maharjan, who today sells magazines at the Peepal Bot. He has actively been involved in selling magazines here for almost 20 years.

Peepal Bot marks the spot from where the distribution of newspapers originated in Kathmandu city.

In earlier times, one had to either head for Peepal Bot or Ganesh Mandir near Rani Pokhari to get one’s daily newspaper. These were the only two places in the Capital where newspapers were sold.

“Only few dailies like Gorkhapatra (which cost 10 paisa then), Naya Awaj and Nepali Times (in Nepali) were available at that time. A few other magazines like Vimarsha, Matrabhumi, Saptahik, Anmolgyan, Yuvamanch were popular then. Then the colourful Kamana magazine hit the stands with entertainment and gossip for the crowds,” says Desh Bhakta Chitrakar, who has been selling papers here since the age of five.

He recalls sitting here along with his mother, who embarked on this business nearly five decades ago.

Names like Maya, Mayapuri, Sun, Filmcity, Manorama were prevalent as the few popular Indian magazines in this place. Glossy and glamourous magazines made their way here around 20 years ago. Nowadays an assortment of magazines from Nepali to Indian to international ones are put up on display for sale. And these cover a variety of topics from politics to social issues to movies to fashion, photography, culture, homemaking, horoscope, youth, music... and the list just goes on.

Previously, it was a haven for book lovers as Peepal Bot was well supplied with novels. However, nowadays novels are hardly seen here. Another favourite in the past were comic books, but their popularity too has declined considerably.

This was the place from where people received news, knew the most recent happenings. And so there could not have been a more appropriate spot to initiate the democratic movement. It held huge significance during the democratic movement as this was the place where people gathered... one from among the crowd would stand up and give his speech, pamphlets were distributed, the cops lathi charged to disrupt the gatherings...

Raju Chitrakar, who has been selling papers for almost 15 years and who had a first hand experience of the one mentioned above, says, “In the confusion when the police lathi charged, we had to run with the crowd for our safety. Many times we also got hit in the melee.”

With the advent of democarcy, the number of publications has increased be it the dailies or magazines. But it is ironic that democracy should be detrimental to the the very place that set the democratic movement underway. It is a unanimous answer given by all the shopkeepers at Peepal Bot that though the number of papers has increased, sale in here has decreased in the years of democracy.

And the newspaper-wallahs are not the only ones who are identified with Kathmandu’s Peepal Bot. They are the shoe-shine-wallahs.

It was in 2028 BS that Rameshwor Wagle started working as a shoeshine boy. “At that time I charged a customer only 10 paisa, while its Rs 20 nowadays,” he says.

Recalling the yesterdays, he says he misses the grand celebrations and processions held in New Road during Jatras the most.

This spot is not only a commercial hub for magazines and dailies, but has a religious significance as well. Guthi pujas are performed in the stupas that adorn this site, and is usually followed by a bhoj (feast) on the premises itself.

The origin of this Peepal Bot is uncertain, however, the prominence it has held for ages and still embraces, makes it a vital part of the Capital. A place where the previous generations have spent their leisure hours, a trustworthy landmark no one misses in an otherwise chaotic New Road, it is indeed a grand sight to see the humungous Peepal tree in the in the middle of the busy city adorned with magazines and newspapers.