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More information about the Kumari-Tradition

View to the Kumari Bahal from Durbar Square - Highslide JS
View to the Kumari Bahal from Durbar Square
License: e. W.
more details: here
License: e. W.
more details: here

View to the Kumari Bahal from Basantapur - Highslide JS
View to the Kumari Bahal from Basantapur
License: e. W.
more details: here
License: e. W.
more details: here


The Kumarimi - The Chitaidar

Many people dedicate themselves to the Kumari. These people are called Kumarimi. The caretaker of the Kumari in the Kumari Bahal is called Chitaidar (patron). Originally it concerned about a unmarried woman. Because of that the present Chitaidar is married, her husband is called so too. Her task is very difficult, because she has to satisfy each desire of the Kumari.
Without giving direct instructions to the Kumari, the Chitaidar has to lead her through her religious mission and guide her by her life. She also is responsible for washing, clothing and preparation of the Kumari for visitors and religious ceremonies.
Also the very much limited circle of her playmates has to learn to respect the Kumari. Given that each desire of the Kumari has to be satisfied, her playmates has to learn to give everything and to do everything, what ever the Kumari wants.

The Kumari Bahal of Kathmandu - The house of the goddess

Courtyard of Kumari Bahal - Window of Kumari - Highslide JS
Courtyard of Kumari Bahal - Window of Kumari
License: e. W.
more details: here
License: e. W.
more details: here
The house of the "living goddess" Kumari has various names. Buddhists call it "Kumari Bahal", Hindus say "Kumari Ghar". The ethnic group of the Newar, the Kumari is chosen from, say "Kumari Che". "Kumari Chowk" is actually called the courtyard, but the term is also used for the whole complex.
In Kathmandu, the Kumari Bahal is at the southern end of Durbar square. In Kathmandu, the Kumari Bahal is situated at the southern end of Durbar square. The Palace is a large two-story brick building with a courtyard, which was built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla and is known for its magnificent carvings, as well as its divine inhabitant. In 1966 the building was completey renovated. In the book "From goddess to mortal" is described a second courtyard, but should be not visible from the outside.

The life in the Kumari Bahal

Traditionally the Kumari does not receive any school education, because she is considered to be omniscient. In the modern times it is essential to receive a school education to be able to return to normal life. Therefore the Kumari receives private tutoring. Also television found its way to the palace, so the goddess can look films and news.
If there is an internet connection at the Bahal, I could not find out till yet :-)

Supernatural forces of the Kumari

Whether the Kumari possesses supernatural forces, or not, no one can probably answer. However there are events, which let it conjecture.
  • During a Indra Jatra, Rashmila Shakya was the acting Kumari, a devotee sacrificed a sheep. While the ritual specifies, he has not coated all wheels of the chariot, in which the Kumari was driven through the city, with the blood of the animal. During the journey the chariot with its multi-level structure got caught by a cable leading across the road. As the same man tried to remove the cable, in order to free the chariot, he fell down from the third level of the chariot. His blood squirted on the remaining wheels of the chariot and the man died.

  • Also during the mandate of Rashmila Shakya it happened, that a 6-year-old mute boy came to her. After he had drunk from water, which was poured over her feet before, he began to speak temporarily again.

  • A further event during the mandate of Rashmila Shakya was, when a blood-vomiting journalist recovered after he asked for forgiveness. The journalist had puplished an article about the Kumari before, in which his photo was printed above the photo of the Kumari.

  • During the mandate of Amita on the day of the Fulpati festival, it came to the situation in that the king did not act as the tradition specifies. Instead of bowing himself, as intended, he waved to the Kumari and also the Kumari waved to the king. The situation results the impression that they say good-bye of each other. And really: It was the last meeting between them. On 01.06.2001 the king and his family died with a shooting.

    Quotation from the book "Göttin auf Zeit" Page 253:
    "Der König blickt zur Mädchengöttin hinauf und statt sich vor ihr zu verbeugen, hebt er die rechte Hand und winkt ihr zu. Eine Geste, die in keinem protokollarischen Regelwerk vorgesehen und von keiner Tradition gedeckt ist. Alle Augen richten sich nun zum Kumari Bahal, und das ungeheuerliche wiederholt sich - auch die Dyo Maiju hebt kurz die Hand und winkt ihrem König zu."

    On the day after the shooting - at Kumari Bahal
    Quotation from the book "Göttin auf Zeit" Page 279:
    "Nocheinmal sieht sie Mousuf Sarkar ganz deutlich vor sich, wie er unterhalb des goldenen Fensters steht und ihr zuwinkt. Damals hatte sie Sorge, es könnte ein Abschiedswinken sein. Nun weiß sie, dass es ein Abschiedswinken war!"

  • It is reported that once a representative of Nepal, who visited the Kumari, for an audience, died, when she fell asleep during the audience.

  • Several sources reports that it later causes vomiting and bleedings, if one looks directly into the eyes of a Kumari.

Discussion of the Kumari tradition in Nepal

During a press conference in September 2002 Bidya Bhandari gave her opinion against the Kumari tradition. She pleaded to abolish the Kumari tradition. "It is not only a rights violation of the child, but it regards all woman and so it is a violation of human rights!", so Bhandari said. "The girl is isolated from the normal society and at the beginning of puberty she will be fired. The outcome of this is not only a trauma, but a heavy psychological damage, if the child is forced to change between these two worlds."

It's not as simple as that! A tradition, which bases on centuries old faith, can not simply be abolished. "There are things, which transcend human understanding.", so Ramesh Prasad Pandey, a 72-year-old priest, who had supervised the past three selection procedures of the Kumari. "I can put a stone on the table, and if I see the holy in it, then it becomes a holy stone. You however will see only a simple stone. Exactly the same it is with the Kumari. It is a question of faith."

Sapana Pradhan Malla, advocate and human rights activist, confirms that the Kumari tradition is bound too much with the Nepalese culture, in order to be simply abolished. Instead of abolishing the tradition, changes have to be made. She suggests: "The Kumari has to receive education and must get the opportunity of development. She also has to be cared after her divine task. It is the responsibility of the state to preserve her rights."
The state pays a lifelong pension of about 3.000 rupee (approx. 30 Euros) monthly to its ex-Kumaris. It is not very much for Nepalese conditions too.

The Kumari tradition in the perspective of the western world

That all sounds strange and mysterious for us. The missing understanding and the often lacking acceptance of strange cultures are probably the reason for the fact that the western world often only sees the negative in the Kumari tradition. Who seriously is engaged in the Kumari tradition and analyzes and verifies the argumentations of the "themselves calling experts" will quite fast assert that much is only propaganda.
In the internet you can find much associated with the Kumari tradition, beginning with a "stolen childhood" over cruel rituals up to sexual abuse, which however often turns out to be a simple flam, or as simply bad researched.

The fact that people from the western world almost always react with incredulous disapproval, if they hear, how the Kumari lives for many years, can not be understood by the Nepalese. Whereas we speak of "stolen childhood", the Nepalese see it as a privilege. "Experts", which argue, that it is a psychological traumatic experience for the Kumari to grow up without her biological parents, but instead with foster parents in the Kumari Bahal, should consider: However in Germany daily 77 children are taken from their biological parents and given to foster parents by official order and thus also psychologically traumatized.

Natives meanwhile are annoyed about the permanent reproaches by the western world that the Kumari is suppressed and partly even the speech is about abuse. In an English newspaper even the headline "Calls to kill off living goddess" appeared on 23. June 2001.


http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=112555 (Link is no longer available)
http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/Weather/Story?id=5278164&page=4 (Link is no longer available)