Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Living Goddess

Throughout Nepal, both Hindus and Buddhists revere the Kumari Devi. These are young girls believed to be the incarnation of the goddess known as Taleju. The most famous of the Kumari is the Royal Kumari (see above) who resides in the capital city of Kathmandu. Many Nepalese believe that the girl is a source of supreme power, and even the king of Nepal must bow before her.

Each Kumari is chosen through an elaborate process. First, she must come from the tiny Shakya caste of silver and goldsmiths. She must also meet a long list of thirty-two physical criteria, including very black eyes and hair, unblemished skin, an appealing voice, and dainty feet. Then she is truly put to the test. The girl (who is often as young as four years old) is placed in a room with the severed heads of 108 goats and buffalo. Men in demon masks dance menacingly around her. Only a girl who shows no fear is eligible to house the goddess Taleju.

Once a girl is chosen, her life will change completely. Until she reaches puberty, her feet will never touch the ground. She will not attend school and can only enjoy the company of a few carefully chosen playmates. Crowds will wait outside her palace, hoping for a brief glimpse that will bring them good luck. The sick (particularly those suffering from blood disorders) will flock to her, bringing gifts and offerings in exchange for her blessing.

Then one day, puberty arrives and the girl returns to being a mortal. A new Kumari is anointed and the old one is banished from the palace and sent home to her parents. She's uneducated, knows no skills, and may never marry (since most Nepalese consider it bad luck to marry a former Kumari). It's a high price to pay for a few years spent as a living goddess.

Below: The Kumari Ghar, the Royal Kumari's palace in Kathmandu.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now THAT would really suck....

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

c'mon! man... religion stinks when your a girl!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've noticed that in the spiecies of animal where both the male and female have different names, the species as a whole is called by the male's name? Example= Lions and Lionesses. Species= LIONS!!!!!

10:49 AM  
Blogger Giant Squirrels or Bust! said...

How cruel

8:27 PM  

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