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Meet Nepal’s Living Goddess

Riddhima Bora Monday, October 4, 2021
Meet Nepal’s Living Goddess

I had heard and read a lot about the living Goddess of Nepal. So during our recent visit to Nepal, in my “must- do list” meeting the Living Goddess was my priority. It was a dream come true to be able to meet both the Living Goddess of Kathmandu and Patan.

Our first visit was to Kathmandu Darbar Square which houses the old palaces, temples, idols, open courts, water fountains, museums and the Kumari Ghar. I was excited and prayed that I would have a glimpse of the Kumari. When we visited the Kumari Ghar, lot of people had already gathered and all looking towards the large window. We had an intuition that maybe Kumari will appear and just then a person appears and announce that Kumari will appear but gave a stern warning that nobody is allowed to click pictures. As the clock stuck 5 in the evening, she appears, looks at the crowd, gives her blessings and disappears after 3 minutes. The emotions I experienced couldn’t be rightly expressed in words. We felt blessed and fortunate.

I was awestruck at her sight but the desire to meet her personally was not yet fulfilled. When we visited Patan I expressed my desire to meet Kumari Goddess to my parents. There are many Kumari Goddesses in Nepal , indigenous to several locations and communities. Patan, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Bungamati and other Newar communities have their own Kumaris. The Kumari of Kathmandu is considered as the Royal Kumari, the supreme of all. Next to her is the Kumari of Patan, the second most important Living Goddess. After exploring the beautiful Patan Square we walked towards Kumari Ghar, asking the direction to the locals. There is a bell at the entrance of the private house and as soon as we rang a woman came and informed us that a tutor has come to teach Kumari and we have to wait for sometime. We waited for around 1 hour, exploring the campus, my brother and father playing badminton with the Kumari’s friends. By this time, lot of foreign tourist arrived with local tour guides. We entered the building, keeping our shoes outside and took a narrow staircase to the first floor of a room. We waited for some time, and the lady who opened the door when we rang the bell, carried the Kumari, put her in her ornate throne. We waited with flowers and donations, and touched her feet for blessings. We begin inching toward her to receive her blessing and she applied a bright red dot to each visitor’s forehead.

At last my dream came true. Infact for the third time, I got a chance to have a glance at the Kumari . Once as we were returning to our hotel after exploring Kathmandu city , as we came near the Kumari Ghar( which was walking distance from our hotel) we saw a huge crowd. After few minutes Kumari was carried by an elderly person and put in her golden chariot which was pulled by devotees and caretakers. We too followed the crowd as she was taken to a nearby temple for the ceremonial puja.

The Kumari or Kumari Goddess is the only living goddess worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari is Virgin. The Kumaris are young pre-pubescent girls who receive the power of Goddess Kali and Taleju. Kumari Goddess is the living incarnation of Goddess Taleju and symbolizes power .They belong to the Newari community, the original settlers of the Kathmandu Valley. Some basic characteristics searched in children to be a Kumari are they should have thighs like a deer, chest like a lion, neck like a conch shell, body like a banyan tree, a gold complexion, the soft voice of a duck, sound health, no evidence of scars and marks on the body, uncut and blemish body skin and so on—which are the characteristics of an enlightened being. After being selected as a Kumari, life changes entirely. She will leave her palace only for ceremonial purpose, her family will rarely visit and her playmates will be from the caretaker’s family. The Kumari always wear red clothes, hair in a topknot and the fire eye painted on her forehead. This continues until after menstruation when the Goddess Taleju vacates her body. Illness and loss of blood due to injury can also mean the Goddess leaves the Kumari’s body.

There are several tales regarding the history and origin of Goddess Kumari. According to the legend, Goddess Taleju visited Jaya Prakash Malla’s chamber( the last king of the Malla Dynasty)during night time as a beautiful woman. They would play Tripasa (a dice game). The goddess visited the king’s chamber every night on the condition that the king refrains speaking about their meetings to anyone. One fateful evening, the king’s wife followed him to his chambers and inspected on his secret meetings with the goddess Taleju. The goddess became aware of the king’s wife and left furiously. Goddess Taleju told Jaya Prakash in his dream that she would reincarnate as a living goddess in children. In his attempt to make amends with Goddess Taleju, Jaya Prakash Malla searched for children possessed by Taleju’s spirit and hence started the Kumari Goddess tradition. Jaya Prakash also built a house for Kumari to stay near the palace and named it “Kumari Ghar.”

I would never forget the three occasions when I got a chance to have a glance and also personally meet the Living Goddess. They are younger then my brother who is 6 years old and it makes me think how they can cope with the pressure of being a Goddess. I am sure life is not easy for them as one day they have to return to the humdrum world of humans after being a Goddess for few years.

Riddhima Bora
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