Former goddess: how do those who have ceased to be royal Kumari live in NepalBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/former-goddess-how-do-those-who-have-ceased-to-be-royal-kumari-live-in-nepal
In Nepal, a beautiful girl without scratches on her body can become a living goddess Kumari. Marie Claire went to see how they live after being kissed on their feet as a child.
At the corner of Durbar and Basantapur squares in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, there is a crowd all day - tourists take pictures, locals sell something, buy something and go to pagoda temples - there are dozens of them here. The hum is unimaginable. I am here with a young woman Rashmila.
She was once a Raj Kumari (Royal Kumari) and lived on the second floor of the Kumari Ghar Temple palace. Thousands of pilgrims were on duty under her windows facing the courtyard. The chief priest kissed her feet every morning. The King of Nepal himself asked for her blessing every year (Nepal became a Federal Democratic Republic in 2008).
"For eight years I have served my country, participated in ceremonies, helped sick children. A living goddess, I had access to secret mantras that only initiates can utter. Some of them I will repeat until my death.
The silver hoop "naga" (one of the attributes of Kumari) gave me superhuman power — I did not feel hunger, thirst, heat, or fear. In all eight years, I have never cried or been sick. However, despite the fact that I had a swing, hundreds of dolls and a TV, I was often lonely," says Rashmila without nostalgia.
The tradition of choosing a living goddess or, as it is called here, "Kumari" originated in Nepal in the 17th century. There are several legends about this.
Nani Maiju from Naghal was a Kumari from 1961 to 1969. Her appearance caused a frenzied delight among the pilgrims.
They all start the same way: for a long time, when making important decisions, the kings of Nepal were advised by the goddess Taleju Bhavani, the hypostasis of a very popular character in Hinduism — the multi-armed Kali Durga. The goddess was beautiful. Further versions diverge. According to the toughest one of the kings entered into a relationship with a small Nepalese woman.
She died, and the voluptuary, to atone for his guilt, introduced a cult of little girls in the country, declaring that a goddess was inhabiting them. According to another, Durga really got into the girl, and for this the crumb was expelled from the country. But the queen stood up for the exile, returned her to her homeland and told everyone to honor her. The third version is classic. The king fell in love with the goddess and this angered her terribly.
Preeti of Itumbahala was a goddess from 2001 to 2007.
Since then, in order not to tempt the monarchs, Durga began to incarnate in innocent girls. As soon as Kumari's first menstruation begins, the council of priests and astrologers looks for a replacement for her among girls 3-5 years old — at this age, children lose their first milk tooth.
Applicants are checked according to thirty-two criteria. The family of the future Kumari should belong to the Baree caste (jewelers caste) of the Shakya clan of the Newari people for three generations. Her personal horoscope should be combined with the horoscope of the country. Appearance is of great importance — the distance between the eyes, the shape of the earlobes, the color of the eyes and hair, flawless teeth, skin without a single mole, wart or scar.
A hint of any abrasion or scratch from which blood could ever flow deprives the applicant of chances, and for the acting Kumari means the end of her career. The girls who have passed all the measurements are finally locked up for the night in the Hanuman Dhoka Palace among the heads of sacrificial animals. From time to time, people in scary masks break into them and scare them half to death.
The bravest one becomes a Raj Kumari in the morning (except for the royal Kumari in different parts of the country there may be a dozen Kumaris of lower rank at the same time) and after the purification ceremony moves to the palace in Kathmandu.
Through the maze of narrow streets of the old town, Rashmila comes to an unsightly gloomy building.
Before the first menstruation, the little goddess Raj Kumari cannot set foot on the "unclean" land outside the palace walls, let alone leave Nepal.
For the former Kumari, the years spent in the palace are associated not so much with luxury as with solitude. Family, friends, the first toys, clothes and jewelry - all this remains outside the threshold of a new home. Here she communicates mainly with the servants of the kumarari and occasionally with the children of her caste, who come to visit her with the permission of the Council and play only quiet games - so that, God forbid, the goddess does not get hurt.
She herself leaves the palace grounds only a few times a year — during major religious holidays — and only in a palanquin. Kumari's foot should not touch the "unclean" earth during all these years. Every morning and every evening, the girl on the golden throne makes a prayer, accepts petitions and offerings — flowers, money, rice, powdered sugar and other gifts.
Like most former goddesses, Nani Maiju loves red clothes and from time to time comes to the palace to see those who took care of her there.
Nepalese and Indians are allowed in the throne room on special occasions. Foreigners, who are equated with untouchables here, are not allowed to enter the inner chambers. They can get into the yard for a small donation and call from there:
It is believed that whoever sees Kumari will be happy all his life.
The girl, firstly, realizes the importance of her mission. Secondly, she is terribly bored — from the windows of the palace she can only see Durbar Square and the square with vegetable vendors, rickshaws, sherpa porters running around it. Therefore, as a rule, in response to the call, a small curious face appears on the gallery with a fiery eye painted on its forehead and fat black arrows from the eyes to the very roots of the hair.
Rashmila was the first of the ex-goddesses to get an education — she became a programmer. All her predecessors never even learned to read.
Rashmila is 30 years old. She was the first former Kumari to get an education and become a programmer. Thanks to her, Internet access has appeared in the palace, and goddesses are now taught to read and write.
Rashmila has made sure that now the little goddesses, living in the palace, can go online and they are taught everything that will then be useful in normal life.
Dil is now 91 years old. She proudly poses against the background of her portrait taken when she was a goddess (1933-1942).
There are nine former living goddesses living in Nepal today. Dil, the oldest of them, is 91 years old (at the time of writing the material in 2016 — editor's note). Contrary to the belief that the husbands of living goddesses die six months after the wedding from a bloody cough, which is why many Kumaris do not marry, she has a family.
Children and grandchildren treat Dil with respect. There is a room in the house where no one else has the right to enter. There, Dil recites mantras learned eighty years ago. Her daughter tries to elicit from her mother at least something about her past life — what she saw while living in the palace, what she learned — and always gets one answer:
In 2008, another goddess, Preeti, left her post. She was 12 years old at the time. She remembers how she handed over the attributes of power to the four-year-old Matani - her successor, how she parted with the "naga" hoop and crown symbolizing her power, which were inherited from one goddess to another for three hundred years.
The position of the goddess obliges and brings together. Preeti with the new Kumari Matani, to whom she transferred her powers.
Among the jewelry in which Kumari appears in public, there is also a gold necklace. Nepalese jewelers, from whose caste Kumari is chosen, make their own for each girl, but it will not be her property. When Kumari goes home, the relic of gold and gems is taken to the National Museum or to a private collection.
In memory of the years spent in the palace, Preeti kept only a fiery red dress - a gift from the Nepalese people. But all these are such trifles compared to the freedom she has gained! Now she can go wherever and whenever she wants. And dance. Her dream is to perform on stage and tour around the world. She is still afraid to go out alone.
Four years ago, Preeti lived in a palace, and now she enjoys freedom, shops and is going to become a professional dancer.
Preeti loves bangle bracelets, but she goes to buy them with her father. At dusk they walk from shop to shop. And except for the fact that the girl is holding on to Daddy's hand too tightly, the goddess is no different from other teenagers.