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The Kumari Devi - Nepal's Living Goddess


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The Kumari Devi is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju, and she is selected and installed at a very young age until the time she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body. The process of selecting a successor is then started again. Serious illness or a major loss of blood from an injury are also causes for her to revert to common status.

The current Royal Kumari, Preeti Shakya was installed on 10 July 2001 at the age of four.

For hundreds of years the practice of worshipping a physical pre-pubescent girl as a source of supreme power has been a part of both Hinduism and Buddhism, and the Kumari Devi is worshipped on all the religious occasions.

The selection of the Living Goddess is very complex. The preliminary test is merely concerned with the "32 attributes of perfection", which includes an appropriate horoscope, the colour of her eyes, the shape of her teeth and the sound of her voice.

The poor girls from the Sakya community, aged between 4 to 7 years of age, are made to confront a goddess in the dark room. The sight of Buffalo heads, demon-like masked dancers, and the sounds of terrifying noises scare some of these innocent children. The real goddess would not be frightened, so the girl who remains calm throughout the tests is the only one who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living Goddess.

After she retires, a former Royal Kumari receives a single gold coin and a piece of red fabric from her clothes worn during her time as Goddess. She also receives a state pension of $80 per month, about twice the average salary. Superstions of marrying an ex-Kumari include that of the husband dying within six months of marriage. Most, however, get married and have families, with the husband surviving all the superstitions.

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Published on 8/20/05

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