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The cycle - Once goddess and back

A slum area somewhere at a by-road of Kathmandu city, fraught with hectic hustle and bustle. Despite the light drizzle, which began early in the morning, rushed a growing crowd around a loam house. People had met in order to attend the last journey of the 12-year-old Kumari, Amita Shakya, the living goddess of Kathmandu, whose term has ended. With the beginning of puberty her body can not shelter the spirit of Taleju any longer and she will be brought back to her family, she left at the age of 3 years.

A pompously decorated palanquin with the Kumari, dressed in red and golden garb, inside, is accompanied by a crowd of priests and devotee. In the following 4 days a set of religious rituals will take place in her parents' house. Amita is separated in a darkened room, until the priests remove her clothes and jewels. Servants of the Taleju temple remove her bun and take the last indication of her divine - the bangle of the Kumari - from her arm. From now on she is a normal mortal with a gold coin and a national honor for her accomplished services as tutelary goddess.

After years of the goddess-existence, she arrived now in the uncomfortable life of the normal society again and will possibly never marry. The superstition, that the husband of a former Kumari will die early, is deep-rooted in the heads of the Nepalese. For this reason only a few men will ask an ex-Kumari's hand in marriage. Also Amita, as all the other Kumaris before, will try to find out why and by whom she is predetermined the fate of this way.

But while Amitas star fades in anonymity, a new one lights up in the Kumari Bahal at the Durbar Square of Kathmandu. Preeti Shakya is ready to take over her divine task. She will be separated from her past family to live in the Bahal as a living goddess and will not talk to ordinary people. Her feet must not touch the ground and she will leave the Kumari Bahal only a few days in the year. The highest representative of Nepal requests for demand of her protection and courtesy. While epidemics, droughts or famines, he will step in front of her throne, kneel down, and ask for forgiveness. At the Indra Jatra festival, if she is pulled through the streets of Kathmandu in her chariot, she will confirm the legitimation of the highest representative of Nepal by pressing the Tika on the forehead.

The remaining time she spends withdrawn in her palace. Tourists and devotees visit the courtyard of the Kumari Bahal and call her. If the Calls persist long enough, she appears briefly at the window and disappears then again. A small donation to the caretakers of the Kumari makes it easier to see her. The goddess must not be photographed.

In this way the spirit of Taleju lived in a multiplicity of pre-pubescent virgin girls for centuries till this day and held the country and the world at equilibrium. A frown banishes the rain; only one of her tears entails large floods. It is reported that once a representative of Nepal, who visited the Kumari to an audience, died, when she fell asleep during the audience. It shall be understood, that the selection of the virgin goddess has to be done very carefully, thus a premature expression of boredom, gladness or relaxation does not rush the world in misfortune. The selection process is defined by the faith, that Taleju herself selects the girl. The task of the priests is only to identify the "chosen one". The strict selection procedure is to guarantee that no errors occur. See also: The 32 physical characteristics (lachchins) of a Kumari.

Is the girl finally found, a series of tantric rituals, which are kept secret till this day, take place in the back rooms of the Kumari Bahal. By the rituals the spirit of Taleju, which is drifting unsubstantial since leaving the ex-Kumari, will be safely accommodated in the new Kumari. So the selection procedure has been completed. The people of the whole country are happy about the message of the enthronement of the new Kumari.

In the next few weeks it is given time to the new Kumari to acclimatize and to accustom in the sudden turn in her fate. After her simple life with meals of rice and lentil soup and a straw mat to sleep, it is a heavy change to the new life with plentiful and tasty food and luxurious accommodation.

A small group of her caretakers always is present in order to jolly her that she does not need to cry tears of homesickness. They assist her at any time, when ever she wants. Every morning she is rouged very complex. The ritual hair bun is bound, the eyes are framed by thick kohl and "the third eye" is drawn on her red painted forehead. Dressed in the traditional costume of the Kumari, made of scarlet brocade silk, and the jewels of the Kumari on the ears, arms and neck she is escorted to the throne hall, in order to receive the devotees. Many of her visitors come with physical handicaps, hopes and problems to ask for help.

Serious and quietly the Kumari sits legs crossed on her gilded lion throne under a canopy, while the pilgrims are waiting patiently for a omen of her. Lout laughing or crying predicts illness or even death. Weeping or rubbing her eyes predicts immediate death. A trembling Kumari points to a detention. If she applauds, you have to fear the authority. Picking the brought sacrificial offering means financial losings. Shows the goddess none of these indications, but remains calm and motionless, the pilgrims assume, that the petition was accepted and they go back home happy and contentedly.

The remaining time of the day is affected by divine services, which take place in the sanctum. In her limited spare time she plays with selected playmates in the Bahal.

Although the Kumari lives isolated and protected in her palace, her status is not guaranteed. She has not to fall down, cut herself or harm herself another kind. By the smallest loss of blood the spirit of Taleju will leave the body of the child. The caretakers are instructed to pay attention to each sign of an illness. A medical checkup by doctors is delayed as much as possible, because that would result in the displacement of the Kumari.

But the D-day has to arrive, when the loss of blood is no longer preventable. At the latest, if the virgin goddess approaches the 12th year of life, the responsibles will reactivate the network of "girl-hunters". By the first sign of the beginning menstrual period the fate of the Kumari is sealed. The days of her devine are numbered. Taleju had left her body and there is only one thing to do: It is to bring the girl back again from where she has come.

A new cycle is beginning.

Source: http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/2167/14392860/7/brt0_art of Nabanita Dutt

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