Kumari, honored as the living goddess of Nepal, resides as an integral part of culture and divinity among the young prepubescent girls, which definitely is another charismatic side of Nepal.
The girl of Shakya Kul, having each of 32 qualities ( Batis Lakshyan), is appointed as “The Chosen One” after a long and complicated process.
Places follow the Kumari tradition with Newas indigenous settlements, i.e., Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Sankhu, and Bungamati. A separate and unique kind of house for Kumari is facilitated, which is called “The Kumari Bahal”.
Legends of Kumari
Kumari is regarded as the human manifestation of the Goddess Taleju. Several tales and legends lead to supporting the belief and advocating how today’s Kumari tradition came into practice.
The Tale of King Jayaprakash Malla
The legend of the last Malla king of Kantipur (Kathmandu), King Jayaprakash Malla, regarding the Kumari tradition is often heard.
According to the tale, Jayaprakash Malla, who had befriended “Taleju Bhawani”, used to play Tripasa (a dice game) with the goddess. She would as promised, visit him every night to play the dice and discuss state affairs.
But, she had her visit only on one condition: that he would never mention her visit to anyone, or else she would stop visiting him. However, one night, the curious queen sees the Goddess playing with the King, which enrages Taleju. She then leaves the palace.
But before departing, she advised the king that he should look for an upper-class Newari girl if he wanted to meet her and have her protect and bless his nation and people.
As she committed to residing with the little girl of the newer community (Shakya Kul) as the reincarnation of Taleju, the girl would then be known as Kumari.
The tale associated with Trilokya Malla
Similar to the story above, the goddess Taleju visited the then King Trilokya Malla every night in human form and they played the dice game known as Tripasa in this story too while talking about the state of the nation and the welfare of its citizens.
One day, the king somehow displayed a lustful urge toward the Goddess, which infuriated her. The Goddess then stormed out of the palace in a rage, never to be seen again.
Soon after, the king, who was now overcome with regret and guilt, began to worship Goddess Taleju and begged for her to come back and bless him. After much persuasion, Taleju finally agreed to return to his home and bestow a blessing on him. But, as a Kumari, a virgin girl of the Shakya community of Newars
She is referred to as “the Kumari” throughout the country of Nepal and is worshipped as the physical manifestation of Taleju, the Malla king’s protector deity.
However, it is believed that as soon as a chosen one gets her womanhood (menstruation), Talejus’s spirit leaves her body and resides in another young girl. As soon as the seat of Kumari is vacant, five seniors of the Buddhist Vajracharya Priest, the Bada Guruju, the priest of Taleju, and the Royal Astrologer search for an eligible girl from the Shakya Cast of Newar Group.
The chosen one has to have “Battish Lakshanas” (Thirty-two perfections of the Goddess) in her.
A Kumari is the embodiment of Goddess Taleju, which symbolizes protection, power, and peace. It is believed that as long as Kumari resides inside the Kingdom of Nepal, the state will be protected by her.
Over time, it has been believed that the Kumari of Kathmandu—the most exceptional and divine of all the Kumaris—has manifested some aspect of the divine power that resides within her.
Chanira Bajrachraya, one of the former Kumaris, in one of her interviews, presented her experience of how she cried for many days before “The Royal Massacre” took place. She believes that some divine power inside her led her to forecast that something evil was about to happen, but sadly, nobody seems to have enough qualifications to decode the divine action.
Visitors when offering her pujas and blessing each kumari are closely watched because her behavior and actions are directly related to devotees’ lives and conditions.
A kumari remains expressionless and remains still most of the time. But if she shows some action and behavior during pujas and worships, the devotees’ lives are considered to be in threat. Even the smile of the Kumari is considered “death and misfortune”.
The divine power of Kumari is believed to be very strong. The young girl, after receiving the divinity, is worshipped even by her parents. She is never disrespected and scolded, even by her parents, for she is now the purest and most powerful figurine of Goddess Taleju herself.
Time and again, even the kings of Nepal used to visit Kumari to receive her blessings by holding big pujas, offering gifts, and bowing down to her.
Today, however, the head of state, the president, visits Kumari on a special occasion in place of the king. It upholds the tradition that was established to ensure the safety of the state and its citizens.
Many people believe that a Kumari reflects divine beauty in her face and body. Anyone who can see through her purity will find her presentation to be elite and powerful. Even just catching a glimpse of her is said to bestow blessings and strength on a follower.
The life of Kumari
As a girl enters the phase of the divine world as Kumari, her childhood, like that of other ordinary girls, ceases to exist. The life of the young girl is changed totally.
After she is throned to Kumari’s post, she is worshipped and respected by each of the ordinary members of her family, other devotees, and even royal families.
According to the circumstances, she wears a red enchanted dress and unique jewelry. Her hair is always tied up in a topknot. She is not allowed to have messy hair or a messy appearance. Her lips will be painted red and her cheeks blushed in rose red.
She will have “Aagni Chaksu” (Fire Eye) painted on her forehead every day. She is always supposed to be clean, pure, and pleasant in appearance. Her hands and feet are beautifully painted with a red dye called “Alla”.
A Kumari is forbidden to touch the floor with her feet until the god departs from her body. Every time she has to be displaced, she will be carried by her father or the caretaker. She is also not allowed to wear shoes during her divinity.
She is kept isolated from any social life and activities outside the Kumari house (Kumari Ghar). She is not allowed to go outside unless on very special occasions like Indra Jatra, Dashain, and other occasions.
Even then, she is seated in her golden palanquin (chariot) and driven around the various parts of the city.
She is required to perform special pujas every day, usually after her morning shower. This regular puja is known as “Nitya Puja.” The puja that is held during specific festivals is called “ Parba Puja.” Additionally, “Bisesh Puja” is the name of the unique puja performed on special occasions.
It hasn’t been long, but Kumari now receives daily visits from a home tutor for her academics.
Education wasn’t facilitated for Kumaris in the past. Today, however, home tuition is a luxury for every Kumari, and it also makes exams and tests easier to take. Because of this, Kumaris’ transition into being a normal mortal human somewhat became easier.
Life after being Dethroned: The difficult transition phase
A Kumari that is suddenly dethroned to be a mare human being might be quite an unimaginable situation of dilemma. A kumari encounters many difficulties while transitioning from the goddess’ thorn to the mortal human world.
Some kumaris in the interview stated that the transition phase broke them from the inside. The respect, having gone in the blink of an eye, is quite devastating to them because during divinity they are never yelled at, criticized, or scolded. Finally, facing the cruel world is quite hard for each of them.
A kumari, as mentioned earlier, is treated as special and is provided with home tutors. But after the transition to mare mortal, she would have to make the journey to school herself. She has to place herself among the numerous students and make herself count.
This could be difficult for her, for she would no longer be given special attention by special tutors like before.
Most Kumaris have been said to have faced difficulties even walking on the road. It’s completely normal for her to need some time to adjust to the world because she had never before encountered traffic, vehicles, or a lot of people walking on the road.
Kumaris are not allowed to wear shoes during their divinity, for even wearing shoes is described as a difficult task at the beginning of the transition phase.
However, after some time of socializing, each of the kumaris seems to enjoy the freedom they acquired after the dethronement. She could dress as beautifully as she likes; she doesn’t have to wake up early for morning rituals; she can play with her friends. She would get to experience a beautiful journey of socialization as well.
Despite facing numerous hassles in the transition phase, none of the former Kumaris seems to regret being chosen as Goddess and having her life revolve around various disciplines.
Additionally, a Kumari receives some allowances in exchange for her role as a deity who guards the state against misfortune.