Kumari the Living Goddess of Nepal

Updated on April 23, 2024

Kumari: The Virgin Goddess

Kumari, the living virgin Goddess, has been worshipped in Nepal since ancient times. She used to be the tutelary deity in the Malla Era. The Shah, who conquered Malla, also kept the Kumari tradition. Kumari is the human form of Goddess Taleju, the aspect of Shakti for power and protection.

The Goddess Taleju is considered the country's chief patron and is worshipped as Shri Yantra. She was first brought to Bhaktapur in Kathmandu Valley and installed there by King Hari Singh Dev, who was driven from Simraongadh by Sultan Gayasudin Tugalak Shah in the early 14th century. However, it has been said the cult of Taleju was practiced in Bhaktapur before King Hari Singh Dev.

In the early days, Bhaktapur ruled only one Malla kingdom in the Kathmandu valley. In the fifteenth century, during the reign of King Yaksha Malla, he divided his kingdom among his sons, and within a hundred years, they became separate kingdoms. Then, the temples of Talejus were built in Kathmandu and Patan.

Establishing the Taleju cult in the three kingdoms has introduced the three living Kumaris' in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Patan. The most popular and influential Kumari is of Kathmandu, the Royal Kumari.

There are several tales regarding the establishment of the cult of Kumari. One of the tales says the then king Triloya Malla used to practice tantrism, and with the help of it, he had direct contact with the Goddess Taleju. Every night, the Goddess Taleju used to come to the palace in human form, play Triphase (dice), and discuss the country's well-being. Unfortunately, one night, the king lost control and made sexual advances toward the Goddess. This made the Goddess annoyed and stopped coming to the palace. The king regretted it and asked for an apology from the Goddess for his act. Finally, the Goddess agreed to appear in the body of the virgin girl from the Newar Shakya and Bajracharya caste.

The Newar Shakya and Bajracharya castes are Buddhists. The girl who will be selected as the Goddess Kumari is born into a Buddhist family and becomes a Hindu deity. So, Nepal is considered the melting point of Buddhism and Hinduism.

The tantric Goddess Taleju resides in the body of a pure young virgin girl. The formal election of the Kumari of Kathmandu- she has to come to the Shakya caste with sound health with no evidence of serious illness, mainly smallpox, skin without blemish, no foul body odor, pre-menstrual and no loss of teeth, black hair, and eyes, dainty hands, and feet, small and well-recessed sexual organs, set of twenty teeth. Once the young girls pass the essential requirement, they go through the test of the thirty perfections as a neck like a conch shell, a body like a banyan tree, eyelashes like a cow, highs like a deer, chest like a lion, voice soft and clear as ducks.

The girls must show calm and fearlessness and check their horoscope to ensure it is favorable to the king's horoscope. So, the selection process for Kumari is arduous. She has to go through numerous tasks; after the accomplishment of all charges by the selected girl, the spirit of Goddess Taleju is installed in the girl by the priest and becomes the Goddess Kumari and resides in Kumari Bahal built by Jaya Prakash Malla until 1757 until her menstruation or the first cut and bleeding.

The Kumari Jatra (Festival) is celebrated every September, just before the start of trekking in Nepal and climbing in the Himalayas.

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