Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Kathmandu, Nepal

The Toothache Tree

Nailing a coin to this holy stump is just another way to ask the gods for relief from dental pain. 

The gnarled hunk of wood known as Vaisha Dev, or the Toothache Tree, sits at an unassuming chowk (intersection) just past Thahiti Tole, but visitors could be forgiven for not realizing that it is a tree stump since locals making an offering to the god of sore teeth have covered it in nailed on coins.

Said to be a cutting from a legendary tree known as Bangemudha, the chunk of wood that has been put in place smack in the heart of Kathmandu’s dental district, which is home to a concentration of orthodontists’ offices, acts as a sort of wishing well. People with toothaches or other dental ailments visit the site and nail coin to the tree as an offering to Vaishya Dev, the Newar god of the toothache. Supposedly there is a teeny tiny little idol inside of the main hole of the tooth god’s shrine, although the coins nailed on every part of the log obscure any view into the burl. In fact, the log is so covered that none of the actual wood is visible anymore either.  

The superstitious site is as attractive to worshippers as it is to the dental professionals all around it. As people with tooth problems come to visit the shrine the hope is that they will be lured in by one of the brightly-colored signs advertising the dentists in the area. Orthodontists know an opportunity when they see one (generally in the mouths of candy-crushing twelve-year-olds).