When you travel to Nepal and visit different attraction in Kathmandu, you are likely to hear about the Kumari the Living goddess of Nepal. The living goddesses of Nepal is known as Kumari that translates to, “virgin goddesses”. Young pre-pubescent girls from Buddhist religion are searched and the one with 32 perfections of goddesses is selected to become a Kumari.
The Kumari the Living goddess lives a secret life without any outside contacts. Kumari is only allowed to have contact with family and close friends. There is always the caretaker presence of Kumari but she is not permitted to speak to outsiders. Kumari lives in Kumari house, “Kumari Bahal” inside the Basantapur Durbar Square, near the palace courtyard.
Only the pre-pubescent girls from Shakya cast in Kathmandu and Bajracharya cast from Patan and Bhaktapur who follow Buddhist religion gets chosen to become Kumari. Kumari is the incarnation of goddess Taleju also known as Durga.
It is believed that When the existing Kumari gets her first menstruation the goddesses leave the body of the child and the next one Is chosen to be Kumari. The girl must not have any bruises, cuts, and birthmarks. She should bear the 32 quality of physical perfection, as well as her horoscope, should perfectly correspond with that of kings.
The candidates for Kumari should undergo various rituals and pass all of them in order to become Kumari. The candidate should not show fear during these tests and rituals. After a new Kumari is selected she is worshipped and different offerings are presented.
They say that ancient kings were great devotees of the goddess Taleju. As the goddess was happy with them, she often used to come down to the palaces to walk and play games with the kings. Once a king, while playing and gambling with the goddess, approached with sexual intentions.
The Kumari the Living goddess got enraged with anger and disappeared. The king felt bad about his action and prayed for forgiveness. The goddess came in his dream asking him to choose a girl for her to possess and worship her as the goddess incarnation. This tradition is followed throughout generation to generation and the culture is not much altered throughout the time. The kings bowed down every year for the blessing to rule the country.
The tradition of worshipping little girls as the goddess has greater significance than just a cultural. Nepal has been the patriarchal society for centuries but the worshipping of female gods shows that we haven’t completely abandoned our ancient heritage. The personification of Hindu goddesses Durga by a Buddhist girl is a great example of religious harmony that is rarely seen in the world.
Even late king Prithvi Narayan Shah knew the importance of this culture. When he was on the mission to unite the kingdom of Nepal he won over the Kathmandu. He threw out the Malla kings but did not ban the custom of selecting and worshipping the Kumari the Living Goddess.
He saw the two-religion following the same tradition and the indigenous community of Newar following the tradition. He used it as an opportunity to show his loyalty to God and the people of Nepal and bowed before the Kumari for her blessing to rule the kingdom. Even when the monarchy fell and president was chosen, he bowed before the Kumari for the blessing.it is a good thing that in a patriarchal society like Nepal that a female god has such a powerful impact.
Many organizations are accusing the community of not following the child rights and proper methods education of the young girls who are selected as Kumari But, it is not true. There has always been a system of providing the required education using a private tutor and the new Kumari are also allowed to surf the web.
Most of the Kumari have reported that the transition from being a goddess to a normal girl is a little hard at the beginning but they are able to return to their normal life. Most of the girls loved being the goddess and treated like the princess and little disappointed when the next one was selected. This shows that the life of Kumari is not cruel as most people depict it to be.
During the festival of Indra Jatra, the chariot of the Kumari the Living goddess attracts most people than other male gods. As Nepal, being a patriarchal society for a long time, the powerful dignitaries and kings bowing to a small girl is a unique and interesting thing on its own. The Kumari is revered and worshipped by devotees from both Hindus and Nepalese Buddhist.
The harmony between two different religion just to worship a little girl represents a huge deal of religion uniqueness of Nepal. The history is preserved and studied by a large number of people all around the world.
The tradition of Kumari the Living goddess is not only of religious importance but it represents Nepalese culture and Nepalese people to the world. I think that this culture has preserved the belief of local community, made people aware of the respect to female and promoted the historical as well as the cultural aspect of Nepal to the whole world.