Though the most elaborate Hindu temples are those dedicated to the worship male deities such as Shiva, Ganesha, Vishnu etc, far greater attention is paid to the propitiation of less august though more powerful and dangerous female deities. In addition to the popularity of such non-Tantrik female deities as Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, the newars devote a great deal of their ritual activity to the worship of the Devi in one of her many dangerous mature, blood lusting forms (kali, Durga, Ajima, Bhairavi, Taleju etc). But the most notable and perhaps the unique feature of their religion is the prominence given to the worship of the Living Virgin Goddess — The Kumari.
History of Kumari
Kumari Puja or "Virgin worship", is a feature of Hinduism of the greatest antiquity dating back at least to the vedic period.The earliest known reference occurs in a Sixth or Seventh century B.C. in which the sakti ('divine energy' or 'female creative principle') is adressed as Kanya Kumari. Thus for the evidence points solely to the existance of the goddess called Kumari; there is no information at all concerning the nature of her worship. Vamsavali provides a due to the possble origin of the unique practice of worshipping young girls as living Kumaris. There are many tales of the evidence of the kumari.The history of the kumaris can be analysis in the many of the facts. The most valuable facts are mentioned here as below.
Once there was a raja(king) Lakshmikamadeva of kantipur who reigned from about 1024 to 1040 A.D. He thought that his grandfather had acqures so much wealth and conqueres the four quarters of the world through the aid of the Kumaris, resolved to do the same. With this intention he went to the Patan Durbar, and having worshipped as Kumari the daughter of a bandya(shakya cast), living in a bihar near the Durbar, known by the name of Lakshmi-barmam, he erected as images of kumari and established the Kumari Puja("Virgin Worship").
A similar tale focussing on the dice game and subsequent retreat of the goddess into the form of a shakya girl is told in Patan, though the relevent monarch is said to be either Sidhinarasingh(King of Patan"), the seventeenth century monarch who built the first Taleju Temple. The widely known story recounts how kumari as Taleju used to come to speak to Siddhinarasingh in his agama in the palace. He ruled the kingdom in accordance with her advice. Then one day when they were playing tripasa his queen saw them through the keyhole. She complained to the king and when the goddess heard this she told him that she could not come anymore to a palace where she was regarded with suspicion. Siddhinarasingh was worried and asked her if they couldnot perhaps continue to meet if she too some other form.She then told him that she would enter into the body of a young girl whose parents were of a degraded and low proession.Siddhinarasingh himself looked for such a family and he selected the doodah, a section of the Bajracharya caste whose members gather gold-dust from rubbish and melt it down for re-working.
Kumari Ghar — House of Living Goddess
The Kumari who was once the tutelary divinity of the malla kings of patan, is still of considerable importance, especially in her own town. King Siddhinarasingh malla used to play tripasa( a kind of game) with Kumari in his own palace. one day queen saw them playing tripasa through a key hole. She complained to the king and when the goddess heard this, told the king that she couldnot come to the palace where she was regarded with suspicion.The King felt afflicted by the misbehaviour of queen and he beged apolize himself and also requseted her to meet in the otherway.and then kumari let him know that she would take a birth in the middle class family. And house where kumari is borned is known as "kumari Ghar"(kumari's house). And since the day, the house where living goddess kumari lives is regarded as "kumari ghar".
Now Patan kumari has not granted the official house or governmental house yet. She has been living with her family in her family house. The residense of the family house of Kumari is knowm as the "Kumari Ghar". The next new kumari has her own house as Kumari ghar. Recent kumari Chanira Bajracharya has being living with her family at the Ghabahal. It lies in the central part of the kumari city near by the Patan Durbar Square.
The Selection of Patan Kumari
The Patan Kumari is chosen from the daughters of the Hawbaha men. The descriptions of the selection procedure by the the selection commitee is describe here. When the previous incumbent, who was then about 12, was seen to be no longer fit because of some strange signs of ugliness on her face, a report was sent to the Hakim of the Chebhadel section of the Patan administrative system. The Hakim was one of the surviving officers of the old Malla regime and untill the position was abolished tasks in recent years, the hereditary incumbent carried out a number of ceremonial tasks. In Malla times he would have been one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. He came to Habaha and after looking at the girl declared her unfit , whereupon a man immediatly went around the locality announcing that all iligible girls should be brought to the baha. Twenty girls came and sat on the raised platform(Phalcha) just to the right of the entrance where the Malpujari(chief Priest) of Taleju, a Deo Brahman by caste, examined them with the Hakim acting as witness.Partly by interrogation of the girl's mother and partly by physical examination he reduced the field to just four. Then Malpujari then took them to the Bada Guruju (Royal priest) in Kathmandu for the final selection. The wife of the Bada Guruju first examined them physically and as a result two more were disqualified. Now the Bada Guruju asked two male assistants what they thought and after some consultation. Then the Bada Guruju , after a brief examination, declared her to be the next Kumari. The things that the Bada Guruju takes the examinitaions are listed here:
* The girl must belong to the Bajracharya clan, a community of goldsmiths, no more than a handful in number.
* Her family background must be impeccable with a reputation for piety, and the committee studies the candidate for calmness and poise.
* She must possess all the 32 lachchins (characteristics) of physical perfection. Her skin must be blemish-free, her hair and eyes, very black. Her body has to be sturdy as a Banyan tree, thighs like those of a deer, neck like a conch-shell and tongue, small and moist. The voice will be crystal clear, hands and feet dainty and sexual organs small and well-recessed. Strangely, for a child, she should also have a set of 40 teeth.
* Her horoscope must match that of the king's.
* If the blood-loving Taleju is to reside in her, she must not be repelled at the sight of gore. And to test her fearlessness, the child is pushed into an odiferous room with 108 decapitated buffalos laid out in a sea of blood. Men wearing horrid masks dance among them in an effort to frighten the child, who walks clockwise through this scene of carnage. If she cries out, faints or shows any sign of hysteria, she is immediately disqualified and the next candidate is brought forward for consideration.
Once the Kumari is chosen, she must be purified so that she can be an unblemished vessel for Taleju. She is taken by the priests to undergo a number of secret Tantric rituals to cleanse her body and spirit of her past experiences. Once these rituals are completed, Taleju enters her and she is presented as the new Kumari. She is dressed and made up as a Kumari and then leaves the Taleju temple and walks across the square on a white cloth to the Kumari Ghar that will be her home for the duration of her divinity.
Various specialist had stated thier own veiw on the selection of the Kumari. Dr. Allen has presented the criteria in detail for the selection of Kumari. The source of such information is Bajracharya the family of which alone has the privilege of their daughters endowed with such virtues. In his words the qualities and the virtues would be Kumari is supposed to possess are enumerated as made available to him by Bajracharya as below:
1) Feet well proportioned.2) Spiralling lines on the soles of the feet. 3) Nails well proportioned. 4) Long and well formed toes. 5) Feet and hands like those of a duck (with netlike lines). 6) Feet and hands soft and firm. 7) The body broad at the shoulders and narrow at the waist. 8) Thighs like those of a deer. 9) Small and well recessed sexual organs. 10) Chest like a lion. 11) Well-spread shoulders. 12) Long arms. 13) Pure body.14) Neck like a conch shell. 15) Cheeks like lion. 16) Forty teeth. 17) Teeth white and nicely shaped. 18) No gaps between teeth. 19) Tongue small and sensitive. 20) Tongue moist. 21) Voice clear and soft like a duck’s. 22) Eyes blue/black. 23) Eyelashes like those of a cow. 24) A beautiful complexion with white luster. 25) A gold-coloured complexion. 26) Skinpores small and not too open. 27) Hair-whorls stiff and turning to the right. 28) Hair black. 29) Forehead large and well-proportioned. 30) Head round with cone-shaped top. 31) Body shaped like a banyan tree. 32) Robust body.
The Aunti Kumari
Auntie Kumari is still virgin. She was selected and incarnated Goddess Kumari when she was 2 and half year. To the surprise to all whoever knows her and has visited the Kumari house admits there is one more miracle in the world to know how she has deserved the right to be worshipped and remained virgin even at the age of 56.
Officially Government denounced her as official Kumari on the only ground that she has grown old and can no longer be accepted as child and selected another one but in practice she remained virgin and maintained her chastity without being menstruated as yet at 56. She is being honored and worshipped
Article and images collected by Anil Basnet
Photgraphs: Pradeep Man Shrestha