Kumari: The Virgin Goddess
Kumari, the living virgin goddess has been worshipped in Nepal from ancient times. She used to be the tutelary deity in the Malla Era. The Shah who conquered Malla too kept the tradition of Kumari. Kumari is the human form of Goddess Taleju, the aspect of Shakti for power and protection.
The goddess Taleju is considered the chief patron of the country and worshipped in the form of Shri Yantra, she was brought first to Bhaktapur in Kathmandu valley and installed there by then the King Hari Singh Dev who was driven from Simraongadh by the Sultan Gayasudin Tugalak Shah in early 14th century. However, it has been said the cult of Taleju was practiced in Bhaktapur before King Hari Singh Dev.
There was only one Malla kingdom in the Kathmandu valley ruled from Bhaktapur in the early days. In the fifteenth century, during the reign of King Yaksha Malla, he divided his kingdom to his sons and within the span of hundred years, they became totally separate kingdoms. Then, the temples of Talejus’ were built in Kathmandu and Patan as well.
The establishment of the Taleju cult in the three kingdoms has introduced the three living Kumaris’ in the three cities of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Patan. The most popular and powerful 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 the human form and used to play Triphase (dice) and discussed the well being of the country. Unfortunately, one night the king lost his control and made sexual advances towards the Goddess. This made the goddess annoyed and stopped coming to the palace. The king regretted it and asked apology from the Goddess for the act he did. 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 caste are Buddhists. The girl who is going to be selected as the Goddess Kumari is born in a Buddhist family and becomes a Hindu deity. So, Nepal is considered to be 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, especially smallpox, skin without blemish, no bad 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 basic 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 have to show calm and fearlessness and her horoscope is checked to make sure that it is favorable to the king’s horoscope. The selection process of Kumari is tough. She has to go through numerous task, after the accomplishment of all tasks 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.