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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

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  • 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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  • Utkarsh roy

    Hi I wanted to know that superstition regarding marriage of kumari is applicable only to royal Kumari or all other Kumaris of Nepal.

  • vedika kakar

    This seems to be prerty interesting!!

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9 Climbers Pulled From Snow After A Sudden Storm On Mount Gurja, Nepal

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit at their base camp at 3,500 meters.

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Mount Gurja
Tourists take pictures at Sarangkot in Pokhara, with the view of the Mount Annapurna range in the background, some 200 km (124 miles) west of Kathmandu, Nov. 30, 2008. Annapurna, at 8,091 meters high, is the 10th highest mountain in the world.. VOA

A rescue team Sunday began retrieving the bodies of nine climbers killed in a violent storm on Nepal’s Mount Gurja, a freak accident that has left the mountaineering community reeling.

A helicopter dropped four mountain guides at the camp where the South Korean climbing expedition was staying when powerful winds and snow swept through, killing the entire team and scattering their bodies as far as 500 meters (yards) away.

“All nine bodies have been found and the team are in the process of bringing them down,” said Siddartha Gurung, a chopper pilot who is coordinating the retrieval mission.

Mount Gurja
A helicopter dropped four mountain guides at the camp.

A second helicopter along with a team of rescue specialists and villagers were also involved in the mission, which has been hampered by strong winds as well as the camp’s remoteness in the Dhaulagiri mountain range of Nepal’s Annapurna region.

The bodies of the climbers, five South Koreans and four Nepalis, will be flown to Pokhara, a tourist hub that serves as a gateway to the Annapurna region, and then to Kathmandu, said Yogesh Sapkota of Simrik Air, a helicopter company involved in the effort.

‘Like a bomb went off’

The expedition’s camp was destroyed by the powerful storm, which hit the area late Thursday or Friday, flattening all the tents and leaving a tangled mess of tarpaulin and broken polls.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off,” said Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a U.S.-based emergency assistance group that will be helping with the retrieval effort.

Mount Gurja
Wangchu Sherpa of Trekking Camp Nepal, organised the expedition

The expedition was led by experienced South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who has climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen.

Experts puzzled

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit at their base camp at 3,500 meters.

Also Read: Nepal Saves Its Tiger Population, Doubles It

“At this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally chosen because they are safe places,” Richards said.

The team had been on 7,193-meter (23,599-foot) Mount Gurja since early October, hoping to scale the rarely climbed mountain via a new route. (VOA)