I had mentioned of writing about the Living Goddess, Kumari Devi of Nepal when writing about the Durbar Square.
Please read on about the Kumari Devi of Nepal. We had a glimpse of her during our visit and I have to say that the chosen Kumari had such an enchanting look and look of innocence. As we had been informed NOT TO TAKE photos, I am posting a snap from the internet archives,.
Huge crowd waiting outside her palace can also be seen.
varadarajan



THE GODDESS KUMARI DEVI
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CROWD WAITING TO HAVE A GLIMPSE OF THE KUMARI

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"Nepal's Kumari Devi"


The Himalayan Hindu kingdom of Nepal is not only the land of many mountain peaks, but also many gods and goddess, unique among all of them being the living, breathing goddess – Kumari Devi, a deified young girl.

The custom of worshipping a pre-pubescent girl, who is not a born goddess, as the source of supreme power is an old Hindu-Buddhist tradition that still continues to this day in Nepal.


CHOOSING THE LIVING GODDESS

The selection of the Kumari, who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living Goddess is an elaborate affair. According to the traditions of Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism, girls in the age-group of 4-7 year, who belong to the Sakya community, and have an ‘appropriate’ horoscope are screened on the basis of their 32 attributes of perfection, including color of eyes, shape of teeth and even voice quality. They are then are taken to meet the deities in a dark room, where terrifying tantrik rituals are performed. The small group of would-be goddesses are then placed in a darkened room with freshly severed buffalo heads and dancing men wearing demon masks. This is certainly frightening to ordinary girls under five years old, but the goddess would not be frightened. Therefore the girl who shows no fear is likely to be the incarnation of Durga. In one final test, the girl must be able to pick out the clothing of her predecessor.

The real goddess is one who stays calm and collected throughout these trials. Other Hindu-Buddhist rituals that follow finally determine the real Kumari.

Girl Becomes Goddess
After the ceremonies, the spirit of the goddess is said to enter her body. She takes on the clothing and jewelry of her predecessor, and is given the title of Kumari Devi, who is worshipped on all religious occasions. She would now live in a place called ‘Kumari Ghar’, at Kathmandu’s Hanumandhoka palace square. It is a beautifully decorated house where the living goddess performs her daily rituals.

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Goddess Turns Human

The Kumari’s godhood comes to an end with her first menstruation, because it is believed that on reaching puberty the Kumari turns human. However, if she turns out to be unlucky, even a minor cut or bleeding can render her invalid for worship, and the search for the new goddess has to begin.

The Kumari Festival

Every September, on the Indra Jatra festival, the living goddess in all her bejeweled splendor is borne in a palanquin in a religious procession through parts of the Nepalese Capital. It is a grand carnival attended by people in thousands, who come to see the living goddess and seek her blessings. In keeping with an old tradition, the Kumari also blesses the King of Nepal during this festival.


A big brick building on Durbar Square in Kathmandu, the Kumari Ghar (or Kumari Chowk) houses the living goddess of Kathmandu. Built in 1757, the temple is known for its magnificent carvings as well as its divine inhabitant.

Overlooking the south side of Durbar Square, the Kumari Ghar is a three-story brick building richly decorated with wood-carved reliefs of gods and symbols.

Tourists can enter the courtyard, where there are more beautiful reliefs over the doors, on the pillars and around the windows. Photos are permitted in the courtyard, but it is strictly forbidden to photograph the Kumari.

The Living Goddess sometimes appears in one of the first-floor windows, especially if her handlers are paid well enough, and is said to answer devotees' questions with the expressions on her face. She is most likely to appear in the morning or late afternoon.



The Kumari

The Kumari is a young girl who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga. Dating back at least to the Middle Ages, the cult of the Kumari is popular among both Hindus and Nepalese Buddhists - another notable example of the mingling of religious traditions in Nepal. There are about 11 kumaris across Nepal, but the Kumari Devi (or Raj Kumari - royal goddess) in Kathmandu is the most important.

The selection process for finding the Kumari Devi resembles that of the Tibetan lamas, who are believed to be reincarnations of their predecessors. She is chosen from girls aged three to five in the Buddhist Shakya clan. Elders meet with hundreds of girls, approving only those with 32 auspicious signs of divinity (mostly to do with natural perfection and symbolically significant features). The girls' horoscopes are also checked to ensure they are compatible with those of the current king.

The small group of would-be goddesses are then placed in a darkened room with freshly severed buffalo heads and dancing men wearing demon masks. This is certainly frightening to ordinary girls under five years old, but the goddess would not be frightened. Therefore the girl who shows no fear is likely to be the incarnation of Durga. In one final test, the girl must be able to pick out the clothing of her predecessor.

Thus discovered, the Kumari moves into the Kumari Ghar and is worshipped as a living goddess. Her needs and those of her caretakers are paid in full by the Nepalese government and she spends most of her time studying and performing religious rituals. She only leaves the temple a few times a year during festivals and her feet must never touch the ground.

The Kumari's reign comes to an end when she menstruates or bleeds for any other reason, including just a minor scratch. The girl reverts to mortal status and the search for her replacement begins. She is given a modest state pension, but may find it difficult to marry - tradition has it that a man who marries an ex-Kumari will die young.
Festivals and Events

The most important festival for the Kumari is Indra Jaatra, a celebration of the harvest held in late August or early September. On the third day of the festival, the Kumari Devi is carried around Durbar Square in a chariot. The chariot is kept next door to the Kumari Ghar and the great wooden yokes from past years are laid out nearby.

In a tradition established by King Jaya Prakash Malla (builder of the temple), the Kumari also bestows a tika (mark of blessing) on the forehead of the king who would reign in the coming year. This tradition was used against the king within a year: he was driven into exile on the even of Indra Jaatra in 1768, allowing the conqueror to take the tika and become the rightful king.


QUICK FACTS ON KUMARI GHAR
Site Information
Names: House of the Living Goddess; Kumari Ghar; Kumari Ghar, Kathmandu
City: Kathmandu
Country: Nepal
Categories: Temples
Faiths: Buddhism; Hinduism; Nepalese
Dates: 1757
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Address: Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal