Kumari – The Living Goddess of Nepal & How to Choose

Kumari – The Living Goddess of Nepal & How to Choose

In almost all of the countries, regions, and traditions, only in the spiritual realm can the goddesses exist. However, in Nepal, there are living goddesses. They truly live and breathe. They are called Kumari (literally means virgin in Nepali), or “living goddesses, and they are the symbol of hope, manifestations of divine and spiritual energy. To get an insight into this Nepal culture, keep scrolling down!

Kumari - The Nepal Living Goddess and How to Choose

The Living Goddess’s Legend of Nepal

There are numerous tales around the legend of Kumari. However, there are two most common tales relating to the King and the Goddess Taleju, which are widespread, told and believed by people in Nepal.
The first tale is about King Jaya Prakash Malla, who was the last king of the Malla Dynasty. In the legend told, the Goddess Taleju came to the King’s rooms in night time as a beautiful woman and they played Tripasa (a dice game) together. The goddess visited the King every night; however, the King wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about their meetings.

The Living Goddess Legend of Nepal

Unfortunately, on one fateful night, the King’s wife followed him to his chamber and saw his secret meeting with the Goddess Taleju. As the Goddess became aware of the presence of the King’s wife, the Goddess left furiously. After that, the Goddess Taleju told the King in his dream that she would come back, but she would reincarnate in female children in Shakya and Bajracharya community of Ratnawali. Jaya Prakash Malla started searching for female children who were possessed by the Goddess’s spirit. Therefore, the tradition of the living Goddess started. Kumari Ghar, a house for Kumari, was built following the King’s order.

The second story is about King Trailokya. As the story told, the Goddess Taleju came and played Tripasa with the King, as well as discussed with him about the welfare of the country. One night, Trailokya blasphemed the Goddess as he made sexual advances towards her, which infuriated her. After that, Trailokya did worship and plead for the Goddess’s return. The Goddess Taleju agreed, but she would appear in the body of a virgin female child from the Shakya family. Therefore, the Kumari cult began.

How is the Kumari Chosen – The Kumari Goddess’ 32 Perfections List

On the 8th day of Dashain, Kala-Ratri, they begin the selection of Kumari Goddess. They choose among the young Buddhist girls from Shakya or Bajracharya families. These are some perfections of the Kumari goddess which a young girl must have in order to become a Kumari:
• Virgin
• Unblemish body
• Eyebrows like a cow
• Dark, straight hair
• White teeth without gaps
• Dark eyes
• Sonorous voice
• Long, slender arms
• Dedicate, soft hands and feet
• No bad body smell
• Thighs like those of a deer
• Neck like conch-shell
• Small and moist tongue
• Small and well-recessed sexual organs
• Has never menstruated

How is the living Nepal Goddess Kumari 32 perfections Chosen

Besides, the horoscope of the nominated girl must match that of the King. However, that is just the past. Nowadays, maybe the President of Nepal’s horoscope is put into consideration. Besides, the girl must show her courage by undergoing an extraordinary rigorous test on the night of Kalratri. She must watch the butchering of 108 sacrificed buffaloes and goats with a masked man dancing on top of the blood without showing any signs of fear, and after that, she must spend the whole night alone in a place with dead animals around. If the girl still stays completely calm, she will be taken into the Taleju temple and installed as a new incarnation of the Goddess.

Traditional Dress & Ornaments of A Kumari

As the Kumari is considered as the perfect symbol of beauty in Nepal, especially in the Newari community, she always has to dress beautifully and brilliantly, especially in the festivals and formal occasions. A Kumari always has to be dressed in red, since red is the color of Gods and power according to Hindus’s belief in Nepal. The living Goddess often wears a red Jama (cloak), a red bhoto (shirt) with a red pagari (turban). Besides, she also has to wear ornaments, not only around her neck but also around her hand and feet. Her hair has to be gathered on a topknot and decorated with flowers. The most important thing is a third eye (tri-Netra), a metaphorical eye, which is painted on her forehead. This eye is believed to have the power to destroy all the evil in the world.

Traditional Dress and Ornaments of a Kumari

We can see easily that a Kumari has to wear garlands of gold coins and diamonds, as well as two necklaces having special symbolic meaning. One necklace is a golden chain in the shape of the serpent god called “Basuki Naga”. This ornament has several symbolic meanings. Firstly, it is considered as the symbol of the national treasury’s guardian. The Kumari Goddess is also the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi, in the Tihar festival. Secondly, the serpent is usually considered as the symbol of anger. Thirdly, the most important season among all the seasons of farmers is closely related to the serpent god, because, during this time, snakes often bite farmers. As a result, people worship god Naga in Kumari Puja in order to protect their wealth from the anger of the serpent god Naga.

Another ornament of the Kumari is a long golden tayo. The Kumari often wears it on her neck to show her authority with the eight mother goddesses. Another ornament is a red tika placed on the Kumari’s forehead. It is the symbol of the cosmic earth’s energy. This bright and glowing tika is a sign of property, health and a bright future of the nation.

A Kumari’s Life In Nepal

A girl’s life changes completely after being chosen as a living goddess. Once she is selected, the time she walks in the Durbar Square will be the last time she walks, since her feet are considered to be sacred, and people will kiss her feet to seek for blessing, and she will be carried almost all the time.

A Kumari can’t leave her palace, which is called Kumari Ghar. The Kumari Gar is always a favorite spot for tourists when visiting Nepal. Every day, enthusiastic and curious foreigners and devotees flocking into the yard of Kumari House. Being a living goddess, Kumari has to live isolatedly from the outside life. Her parents have to quit their job in order to become the Kumari’s full-time carers. All of her desires and demands are important, and people who are in her service have to make sure that all of those demands are met. Traditionally, a Kumari is not educated. However, nowadays there is a kind of private tutor who will take care of her learning.

The Living Goddess - Kumari Life In Nepal

A glimpse of a Kumari is believed to bring good fortune. Every day, a lot of people visit the courtyard in front of Kumari’s window with the hope of getting a glance from the living goddess. Many of those visitors are suffering from illness and menstrual disorders. During any visit, every action of the goddess is watched closely since all of her actions will be interpreted as a prediction of life.

List of Kumari in Nepal – Former and Current Kumaris

Royal Kumaris in Kathmandu

Name Hometown Dates as Kumaris City
Hira Maiya Shakya Wotu 1922 – 1923 Kathmandu
Chini Shova Shakya Lagan 1923 – 1931 Kathmandu
Chandra Devi Shakya Asonchuka 1931 – 1933 Kathmandu
Dil Kumari Shakya Lagan 1933 – 1942 Kathmandu
Nani Shova Shakya Ombahal 1942 – 1949 Kathmandu
Kayo Mayju Shakya Kwahiti 1949 – 1955 Kathmandu
Harsha Lakshmi Shakya Naghal 1955 – 1961 Kathmandu
Nani Mayju Shakya Naghal 1961 – 1969 Kathmandu
Sunina Shakya Ombahal 1969 – 1978 Kathmandu
Anita Shakya Sikamoobahal 1978 – 1984 Kathmandu
Rashmila Shakya Kwahiti 1984 – 1991 Kathmandu
Amita Shakya Asanbahal 1991 – 2001 Kathmandu
Preeti Shakya Itumbahal 2001 – 2008 Kathmandu
Matina Shakya Kathmandu 2008 – 2017 Kathmandu
Trishna Shakya Kathmandu 2017 – Kathmandu

Kumaris in Patan

Name Hometown Dates as Kumari City
Sumika Boyracharya Patan   Patan
Chanira Bajracharya Patan 2001 – 2010 Patan
Samita Bajracharya Patan 2010 – 2014 Patan
Yumika Bajracharya Patan 2014 – Patan

Kumaris in Bungamati

Name Hometown Dates as Kumari City
Ganga Bajracharya Bungamati 1996 – 1997 Bungamati
Jamuna Bajracharya Bungamati 1997 – 1998 Bungamati
Rashmi Bajracharya Bungamati 1998 – 2001 Bungamati
Sophiya Bajracharya Bungamati 2007 – 2011 Bungamati
Diya Bajracharya Bungamati 2011 – 2014 Bungamati
Smrity Bajracharya Bungamati 2014 – 2015 Bungamati
Kinjal Bajracharya Bungamati 2015 – 2018 Bungamati
Kripa Bajracharya Bungamati 2018 – Bungamati

What Happens to Kumari after Puberty

The former Kumari, Living Virgin Goddess, retires upon puberty, normally in 15-year old. After retiring, it is quite hard for the former Kumaris to walk property because they had been carried all the time and the outside life would be strange to them.

Education is something strange to the Kumaris as they are confined to their houses or temples. However, in 2008, Nepal’s Supreme Court overruled a petition against this custom and demanded reforms, stressing education in those who are Kumaris. Also, in the past, Kumaris were not supposed to marry; but now some ex-Kumaris are married.

Kumari’s Actions and Their Meanings

• Crying/ Laughing loudly: Serious illness or death
• Rubbing eyes: Imminent death
• Trembling: Imprisonment
• Picking at food offerings: Financial losses

2 thoughts on “Kumari – The Living Goddess of Nepal & How to Choose

    • Tucker Do says:

      Hi Theresa Hughes!

      Currently, there is no record of those before 1922. We’ve been striving to figure it out.

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