Every country has its own amazing history of Gods and Goddesses. Though in almost every tradition, they exist in spiritual forms, in Nepal, they actually live and breathe. Yes! Nepal has this fascinating tradition of Kumaris, who are the pre-pubescent girls. They are believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Telaju, the Nepalese name of Goddess Durga.
How did the tradition of Kumaris come into existence?
There are many legends and tales which tell how the traditions of Kumaris began. One of the most famous tales is that of King Jayaprakash Malla, The last king of Malla Dynasty. According to the legends, a red serpent approached the king one night while he was playing Tripsa, a dice game with goddess Telaju. Goddess Telaju visited the King every night to play the game on a condition that the king would tell anyone about her visits.
One night, it so happened that, king’s wife visited him to see who the king meets so often. The goddess when seeing the king’s wife, wife got angry. She told the king that if he wants her to visit him again to protect his country, the king should start searching for her in Newali (Shakya) community of Ratanwali. She said that she would be incarnated as a young girl among them. So the king left the palace and to search for a girl who was possessed by the goddess Telaju.
How is a Kumari selected?
The councils of Newari keep in mind thirty-two qualities of a goddess while selecting a Kumari. Some of them are:
- A body like a banyan tree
- Thighs like a deer
- Eyelashes like a cow
- Twenty unbroken teeth should be present
- Hair and eyes should be very black
Also, during kalratri or black night, 108 buffalos and goats are slaughtered. The young girl is taken to the courtyard of Telaju’s temple. There, the severed heads of the animals are lightened by candles and masked men dance. The girl should show no fear during this ceremony. The young girl also has to spend a night in the courtyard with the heads of slaughtered animals and still show no fear. If a girl passes all these tests, she is eligible to be a Kumari.
Life of the girl under the tradition of Kumari:
The Royal Kumari gains a wide respect all over the country. Her feet should not touch the ground during her tenure. Whenever she leaves the palace, she is carried in a golden palanquin. They are always dressed in red and have a symbolic “fire-eye” painted on their forehead.
The Royal Kumari’s family can visit her only on special occasions. Her friends are chosen from her cast and she is educated by her caregivers. Many politicians visit the Kumari to seek her blessing. Many women with blood or menstruation related problems visit her because of her association with it.
Kumaris are worshiped both by Hindus and Buddhists. Although there are many Kumaris in Nepal, the Kathmandu goddess is the most important and make public appearances. The reign of a Kumari ends with her first menstrual cycle and she is reverted back to be a normal girl.