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Why should Goddess never Bleed?

The Kumari is the only living goddess worshipped by both Hindus-and-Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari is Virgin.

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goddess kumari of nepal and menstrual taboo

Menstrual Taboo Even For Goddess Kumari, The Living Goddess of Nepal

The Kumari is the only living goddess worshipped by both Hindus-and-Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari is Virgin. The Kumaris are young pre-pubescent girls who receive the power of Goddess Kali and Taleju.) The Kumari or Kumari Devi is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or Devi in Nepal.

This is a unique Nepali tradition that is an amalgamation of Buddhism, Hinduism and indigenous

Newari culture. A Kumari is selected from the Shakya clan of the Nepalese Newari community.

The Kumari is revered and worshipped by Hindus and Nepali Buddhists all over Nepal.

A Kumari is believed to be the human incarnation of the Goddess Taleju or Durga until she menstruates after which her followers believe that that the Goddess leaves the body of the child. In Hindu mythology the supreme Goddess is believed to have manifested the entire cosmos out of her womb. She is then said to have declared that she resides in all living female beings in this world. Thus, this worship of the Kumari is to realize the potential divinity in every human being mostly female. Young girls are chosen over grown up women for this ritual because of their inherent chastity and purity which are supposed to be representations of Goddess Durga.

It is believed that in the ancient days the Kings of Nepal used to be great devotees of Goddess Taleju. Pleased with their worship, Taleju would come to the palace of the kings, walk with them and even played fun gambling games with them. On one such night, enamored by the beauty of Goddess Taleju, the king made an advance towards her. His behavior startled her and she became enraged. She announced that the king and his family would lose her favor and she will return to the heavens. The king, now overcome with guilt and terror begged for forgiveness. The compassionate Goddess then made a provision of visiting and guiding the kingdom in the form of a young woman who would be a manifestation of herself. This made way for the Kumari tradition in Nepal. Today, the Kumari lives near the Palace complex which also has a beautiful Taleju temple.

Today, the Kumari system is an integral part of the Newar people (an ethnic community of Nepal). The process of choosing a Kumari is quite elaborate as more than one girl is chosen to be the Kumari. She has to fit the right category and is chosen by the priests who look for signs that hint at her divinity. Once the chosen girl completes the Tantric purification rites and crosses from the temple on a white cloth to the Kumari Ghar to assume her throne, her life takes on an entirely new character. She becomes a part of diverse ceremonies which are Hindu as well as Buddhist in nature. This is a unique system as the Kumari is considered a Hindu Goddess but is chosen from a sect that follows the Buddhist religion.

After being selected as a Kumari, a girl's life changes entirely. She will leave her palace only for ceremonial purpose, her family will rarely visit on a formal capacity and her playmates will be from the caretaker's family. The Kumari always wear red clothes, hair in a topknot and the fire eye painted on her forehead

The Kumari's walk in the Durbar Square is the last time her feet will touch the ground until the Goddess Taleju departs from her body. The Prime Minister and President touch the feet of Kumari and seek for a blessing. The Kumari is carried when visiting outside the palace in her golden palanquin.

A Kumari's glimpse is believed to bring good fortune. Many people visit the courtyard in front of Kumari's window to get a glance of the living goddess. The more fortunate and better-connected people visit the Kumari in her chambers. She sits upon a gilded iron throne. It is believed that Kumari has special powers over such illness. Bureaucrats and high ranked government officials also visit Kumari Goddess

During the visit, the actions of the living goddess are closely watched because her actions are interpreted as a prediction of the visitor's life. Some actions and its meaning of Kumari Goddess are:

Crying or Loud Laughter: Serious illness or death

Rubbing Eyes: Imminent death

Trembling: Imprisonment

Picking at food offerings: Financial Losses

Selection Process of Goddess Kumari

The process to find a living goddess is quite vast and has many criteria. Five senior Buddhist Bajracharya, Chief Royal Priest, Priest of Taleju and royal astrologer oversees the selection ritual of Kumari. Some basic characteristics searched in children are sound health, no evidence of scars and marks on the body,  uncut and blemish body skin, pre-menstrual and no loss of teeth.

Once a girl passes through the basic requirements of Kumari Goddess, she is then further examined for "Battis Lakshan", 32-body perfections to decide the future Kumari. Some of the characteristics of Battis Lakshan are:

Body like a Banyan Tree

Eyelashes like Cow

Neck like a conch shell

Chest like a lion

Voice soft and clear as of a duck and same horoscope as of the King

Sign of Serenity and Fearlessness Black Straight Hair and Dark Eyes

Delicate and Soft hands and feet

Thighs like those of a deer

Small and moist tongue

 The children also must not be scared of blood and masked man. Every child is shown several sacrificed buffalo and masked men dancing on top of the blood. If a child shows signs of fear, she is deemed not worthy of Goddess Taleju's power. The girl that shows courage amidst the blood and dancing is then selected as the next incarnation of Goddess Taleju.

During the 8th day of Dashain, Kala-Ratri, the selection process of Kumari Goddess begins. The children also must not be scared of blood and masked man. Every child is shown several sacrificed buffalo and masked men dancing on top of the blood. If a child shows signs of fear, she is deemed not worthy of Goddess Taleju's power. The girl that shows courage amidst the blood and dancing is then selected as the next incarnation of Goddess Taleju.

During the 8th day of Dashain, Kala-Ratri, the selection process of Kumari Goddess begins.

Process of Dethroning the Goddess

Kumari Goddess is the human symbol of power and protection. Kumari is the sole embodiment of pureness among Hindu and Buddhist followers. A Kumari must be in her pre-pubescent and should not have lost any drop of blood from her body. After the Kumari enters her adolescence and begins her first menstruation, she is considered impure, and the search of new Kumari starts.

In some cases, the title of Kumari is lost when the reigning Kumari suffers a cut and loses blood from her body. If a Kumari loses blood from her body, she becomes like any other humans and loses the power of Gods bestowed on her.

Strict and Isolated life of Goddess

It is not easy being the only living goddess in the world

Kumari is selected at very young age from as small to three years. After being selected as Kumari, the children leave their parents and birth house until another living goddess replaces her.

The children live without their parents from such an early age. The parents are proud of giving birth to Goddess Taleju but also remain sad parting away with their daughter. The parents aren't allowed to visit their daughter and only see their children when Kumari ventures in special facilities, about 13 times a year.

Kumari lives in the Kumari house (Kumari Ghar), an old palace building without modern facilities. Until recently, the Kumaris weren't taught education and allowed to use the internet facilities inside the Kumari Ghar. The Kumaris spend their days inside a four-wall room poorly lighted with candles and lamps

Human Rights and Kumari System

A recent discussion and pressure from Human rights and Children rights activists of Nepal on the Kumari system have somewhat changed the strict governing of Kumaris of Kathmandu. Kumaris weren't given proper education and knowledge about social life and surrounding. This made the transition from a living goddess to mere mortal after dethroning much more troublesome.

Nowadays, Kumari in the Kumari house is provided with a personal tutor and education. There is even service of the Internet, books, and magazines. The Kumari attends national exams inside the palace under supervision. There is a step ahead to a better future of Kumari Goddess after they lose the title of living goddess.

A sudden and unexpected journey from being a normal child to a Deity. Not only does Nepal has many gods, goddess, deities, Bodhisattvas, avatars and manifestations which are worshipped and revered as statues, images, paintings and  symbols. Nepal is also a home to a real living goddess entitled "Kumari"- a virgin mother of the world.

A very young Newari girl who lives in a magnificent, intricately carved three-floored wooden palace built-in 1757, wearing red apparel, having her hair in a topknot like a pagoda, sitting upon a gilded iron throne, with a third eye of the wisdom (called "Tri- Netra') painted on her forehead, displaying no any emotions, not even a smile and eyes which can draw the beholder into direct contact with the divine is believed to have powers of prescience and the ability to cure the sick - particularly those suffering from blood disorders, fulfill specific wishes and bestow blessings of protection and prosperity. Above all, they're said to provide an immediate connection between this world and the divine and to generate in their devotees a maitri bhavana, a spirit of loving-kindness towards all. As the supreme goddess is thought to have manifested this entire cosmos out of her womb, she exists equally in animate as well as inanimate objects. As the goddess believes in chastity and impurity, a young child is therefore the ideal choice to the house of the goddess on earth.

When Kumari enters her adolescence and gets her first menstruation, she is considered Impure meanwhile the search of a new Kumari begins. Although she is given a modest state pension, she faces difficulty in getting married - tradition has it that a man who marries an ex-Kumari will die young.

This unique tradition is a perfect example of the intertwining and peaceful coexistence of religions Nepal has long been known for. The beginning of Kumari, cult dates back in the 6th century. There is evidence of virgin worship taking place in Nepal for more than 2,300 years. Albeit the tradition of Kumari-puja has been started during the licchavi period, it became evident in the 17th century. Several legends alluding to the Kumar's power over the King and about how the kumari came to existence in Nepal, from the goddess visiting king Jayaprakash Malla in his dreams to the king curiously casting a wistful glance at the goddess and angering her for making amorous desire, to the king's wife learning of the banishment of a young girl possessed by the goddess and telling the king to bring her back as the living embodiment of the goddess. However today many people mix up the histories and sadly results in several backlashes from the culture.

Taleju has always been the most important goddess of the Nepalese kings and the defender of the Kathmandu valley. The Kumari legends and the traditions that have grown up around remain a strong and unifying aspect of Nepali culture today. Worshipping the girl as Goddess is a way to respect the womanhood. But dethrone the goddess When she bleeds is a defamation to the gender.

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Ramya is an Assistant Professor & Tribal Researcher Department of English, P.K.R Arts College for Women. Erode Dt, Tamilnadu,Mail: [email protected]