Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Kumari

Nepali religion includes the Kumari; aka Living Goddess. Nepali believe she is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali.

She is chosen from the young girls of the Buddhist sect born on the full moon of a certain month. However, she is a Hindi goddess— another example of how Nepal merges two religions into one

The girl selected as the kumari must have many specific physical features; cow eyes, a certain type of nose, a certain type of mouth… her nails must be just so, her feet a specific shape…

When the priests have found about 20-30 girls, the testing begins. Not only must the Kumari look a certain way, but she must be unaffected by scary things— if she is frightened, then she can't protect Nepal from natural disasters.

At the age of three or four, all the little girls that meet the above requirements are gathered together at the Temple of Kali in Darbar Square, Kathmandu. Three priests: One Buddhist, one Hindu, and one King's priest, gather together to take the little girls into the temple all at once, and try to scare them.

Part of this trial means exposing the four year old to 324 animal sacrifices— I think that they are all sacrificed in front of her, though I'm not sure if it's one by one or all at the same time. 

They put her in a dark room and make loud noises, or bring out snakes and spiders.

All these trials are to make sure that she is strong— that she won't back down if she has to protect all of Kathmandu.

Most little girls will be scared when confronted with these things. But I don't think any of them react as badly as they would have— I'm assuming that their parents, who know that the Kumari is chosen from a certain Buddhist sect, and know the details of how, will expose their little girl to such 'scary' things in an effort to train her. I'm only assuming; this may be wrong.

If more than one little girl doesn't react to all these scary things at all, then each is given two sets of prayer beads. One set is real; the other is a fake, but highly resemblant. The little girl who chooses the correct beads becomes the Kumari.

The entire process takes about two weeks.

After becoming the Kumari, the beautiful little girl is taken to a 'palace,' where she does not live with her family. Instead, a priest takes care of her. When she gets her first menstruation, she is no longer the Kumari, and another little girl is chosen.

Every year in September the Kumari walks around Darbar Square to 'reinforce' the protection around Kathmandu. She has six public viewings a year. Postcards of her are sold at her home's courtyard entrance, and she is on the map of Kathmandu.

It is bad luck, however, to marry a Kumari. Imagine being a goddess— pampered all your life… and then becoming a normal person. How would you even begin to adjust?


  1. The Kumari lives with her immediate family. She will lose the status when she has her first period or a serious loss of blood (like a nose bleed).

    When they choose a new Kumari the sacrifices are made in front of all the girls (I can't fathom how much therapy they'll need).

    It is forbidden to take pictures of the Kumari while she is blessing people at her house between 10 am and 12 pm and 4:30 and 6 pm.

  2. Thank you for the clarifications!