Tales from Nepal; The Hindu Goddess Kumari

As a country Nepal worships many gods, goddesses, deities and so on in the form of physical objects and symbols. But over an above that they also have a living goddess that takes the form of a prepubescent girl. The living Hindu goddess is known as Kumari Devi, which means virgin and she is thought to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju until she comes of the age where she begins menstruation.

Throughout the country Hindus and Nepali Buddhists who are part of the Kumari cult, worship the Kumari Devi until she begins to menstruate or has a serious illness or loss of blood. From that point the goddess will leave her position and she will go back to common status. Since July 2001, Preeti Shakya has been the Royal Kumari, since her installation at the tender age of four years.

The next Royal Kumari must go through quite a process before she is selected to take on this interesting and unique role respected by so many in the country. First she must pass the thirty-two attributes of perfection, which is includes all of her physical features. After that the girls who pass must face a goddess, which can be terrifying to the young children between the ages of four to seven years. The child who remains calm is the one who can be seated on the pedestal to be worshipped as the Living Goddess”. The last test for the Kumari is to choose clothing and decorations that her predecessor wore before her.

Nepal has many Kumaris but the best recognized one is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu. She takes up residence in the palace called Kumari Ghar, located in the center of the city at the Durbar Square and is worshipped at all religious holidays. Although it is the Kumari cult that makes her such an important part of their worship, it is the Mahayana Buddhists that established the worship of a virgin girl as the Royal Living Goddess. Contained in the Kumari Ghar are beautiful carvings and it is there that the Kumari must perform her daily rituals.

While the Kumari lives in the palace her and her caretaker’s expenses are provided by the trust fund that the government has.