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Kumari Devi of Nepal: Custom of worshipping Young girl as Living Goddess in Hindu-Buddhist Tradition

The secretive world of the Kumari has created many lores of its own including tales involving demons and the heads of dead animals

  • The child is believed to be the source of ‘Shakti’ or supreme power that envelopes the entire creation
  • She is believed to be the incarnation of the fearsome Hindu Goddess Durga
  • The kings Of Nepal would seek the Kumari’s blessing before the initiation of any scheme

The old Hindu-Buddhist tradition of worshiping a pre-pubescent girl as a manifestation of the Goddess Durga still continues on till today in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. The girl, who is not a born goddess is selected after many trials. She is believed to be the source of ‘Shakti’ or supreme power that envelopes the entire creation and sustains all the beings with her love and warmth.

There is an elaborate process to determine the Kumari, the Living Goddess who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship. Girls in the age-group of 4-7 years who belong to the Sakya community are screened by looking at their horoscopes and are selected on the basis of the 32 attributes that depict perfection, like a body like a banyan tree, eyelashes like a cow, thighs like a deer, chest like a lion and a voice as soft and clear as duck’s, mentioned Subhamoy Das, an Hinduism expert to hinduism.about.com.

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After all the ceremonies, the spirit of the goddess is believed to have entered into her body. After wearing the clothing and jewellery of her predecessor, she becomes the Kumari Devi, the living goddess who is worshipped on all religious occasions. She begins her life as the Goddess in her new sacred home called Kumari Ghar, at Kathmandu’s Hanumandhoka palace square.

Kumari Shobha Bhajracharya plays her sarod Image Source: BBC
Kumari Shobha Bhajracharya plays her sarod Image Source: BBC

Kumaris are drawn from the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. Planets, karma and an array of gods play an important role in the daily life of these people. It can be said that they are Buddhists who have adopted the Hindu caste system.

According to Subhamoy, Kumaris are believed to be the incarnation of the fearsome Hindu goddess Durga, there are several myths supporting this belief. One such is that Trailokya Malla, the king of the Malla dynasty was visited by the Goddess every night until the day he made sexual advances which made the goddess vanishes in fury. The king in regret worshipped and pleaded for her return .The goddess later appears to the king in a dream asking him to find a child from the Shakya caste. The girl is asked to be worshipped as the Goddess would have entered into her soul. The king does as he was asked and finds the world’s only Living Goddess, starting a tradition that continues on for centuries.

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The secretive world of the Kumari has created many lives of its own including tales involving demons and the heads of dead animals.

The kings Of Nepal would seek the Kumari’s blessing before the initiation of any scheme. After Nepal’s monarchy was abolished in 2008, the president is said to have bowed before her.

The title of Kumari is not given to one particular person for eternity, mentioned Das. She ceases to be the goddess with her first menstruation because it is believed that on reaching puberty the Kumari turns human. So till she reaches the age of 16, she is worshipped by all even though it is only for a few hours during festival times. For all the days of the festivals, a name is chosen which is determined by her age as instructed in the Tantric Hindu texts.

A careful life has to be led by the Kumaris as even a little bad luck can instantly turn them back into mortals. A minor cut or bleeding can make her unfit for worship and a new goddess is immediately searched and. After her life as a mortal begins, she leads a normal life and is allowed to marry despite many superstitions that say that men who marry Kumaris die a premature death.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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