Nepal holds popularity as the home of Mount Everest and Lord Buddha, the preacher of peace. There are thousands of temples, monasteries and Gompas, idols, monuments and shrines. They carry the beliefs of the uncountable Gods and superpowers from every corner of the country. But, many know Nepal as a land of a living goddess- Kumari.
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. Kumari is the human embodiment of Goddess Taleju and symbolizes power and protection.
History of Kumari Goddess
There are several legends and myth regarding the beginning of Goddess Kumari. Among the several ; legends two of them are quite popular. First one is, Goddess Taleju visited Jaya Prakash Malla’s chambers 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 among the Shakya and Bajracharya community of Ratnawali. 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.”
A second myth about the origin of Kumari Goddess circles around King Trailokya. According to myth, Goddess Taleju and King Trailokya played Tripasa every night and discussed the welfare of the country. One night, Trailokya made sexual advances towards the Goddess and infuriated her. As punishment, Goddess stopped visiting the King’s place. Trailokya worshipped and pleaded for her return. Later, Goddess Taleju agreed to appear in the body of a virgin girl from the Shakya family. Hence, the Kumari Goddess cult was established.
Selection of Kumari Goddess
Kumaris are selected from the Shakya caste of Newar community who are silver and goldsmiths. A rightful candidate must be in excellent health, never been afflicted by any diseases or have shed blood, should be without blemish and must not have lost any teeth yet.
When she passes all these basic eligibility requirements, she gets further examined for battis lakshanas or thirty-two perfections of a goddess.
Her eyes and hair should be black, have dainty hands and feet, small and well-recessed sexual organs and a set of twenty teeth. She is also gets observed for signs of serenity and fearlessness. Her horoscope also gets examined to make sure that it is complementary to the King. 108 buffaloes and goats are sacrificed to the goddess Kali and the young candidate is taken from Taleju temple and released to walk the courtyard without fear.
During the final test, Kumari has to spend a night alone in a room among the heads of those ritually slaughtered buffaloes and goats. The fearless candidate to do so will be proven as the living vessel of the goddess.
Her ultimate test will be to pick out the personal belongings of previous Kumari from the assortments of things laid down before her. If she does it correctly, then there is no doubt that she is the one.
When Kumari passes all the test, she gets purified so that she can be an unblemished vessel for Taleju. She undergoes several secret tantric rituals to cleanse her spirit and body from her past experience. After all the rituals are done, Taleju enters her and she is presented as the new Kumari.
After being selected as a Kumari, she will leave her palace only for ceremonial purpose, her family will rarely visit on a formal capacity 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.
The Kumari’s walk in the Durbar Square is the last time her feet will touch the ground until the Goddess Taleju departs from her body. The Prime Minister and President touch the feet of Kumari and seek for a blessing. The Kumari is carried when visiting outside the palace in her golden palanquin.
A Kumari can be dethroned if she menstruates or suffers a cut and looses blood from her body.
The practice of worshipping young prepubescent girls is not new in Hinduism and has over time trickled down and spread out to different sects and faiths within Hinduism and the meaning and traditions involved with it has changed.