Sunday, July 08, 2007

Goddess in progress

Stripped of divinity
Kathmandu, Nepal

Earlier this week, newspapers back home reported that the Kumari, one of Nepal's traditional "living goddesses," lost her title because she left the country. She traveled to America to promote a new British documentary about this Hindu-Buddhist tradition. Everyone wrote to me asking if I had heard anything about this.

Strangely, I have not seen a peep in the newspapers, which devote most of their space to controversies about the King's birthday (which was yesterday - that's another story). And, on the phone with my Newar Buddhist dance teacher (who is of the same caste as the girl), it was only when I brought up the subject that he acknowledged it.

The tradition holds that no Kumari can leave the Kathmandu Valley during her reign. The Valley forms a sort of sacred mandala and she is supposed to stay within those confines. It's for her own safety; plus that of the Valley, since she is considered an incarnation of the protector goddess.

Since no Kumari has ever left the Valley, much less gone abroad to an "impure" non-believing country, this issue has never come up before.

I was able to meet, receive blessings from, photograph and even have dinner with Sajani Sakya (the Kumari in question) twice last year. I am on speaking terms with one of her attendant-priests and will travel to Bhaktapur ("City of Devotion") next week to try and get the story.

One of the stories below quotes a priest as saying "We don't allow our Kumaris to visit an alien land." However, the story is wrong in saying that "several THOUSAND Hindus a day visit the temple to worship the Kumari." In Bhaktapur it is at most several hundred unless it's a holiday.

It could be that I will be here in Nepal when they select and enthrone a new Kumari, which would be quite an event.

Here is my photo of Sajani last Dasain (a big Hindu holiday) when she was being carried from house to house to give blessings. I still have the Jamara (sprouted rice sprigs) she gave me as part of the blessing.

Here are some links to related news stories:

Nepal "living goddess" loses status
One of Nepal's Living Goddesses stripped of status due to overseas trip
Nepal to unseat Living Goddess for US visit


Scargill Lass said...

I've just read that the Kumari has been reinstated:

I really enjoy reading your blog Sirensongs - well done on a great blog
Sue Magee

Jane said...

Actually makes sense; the goddess is a local chi manifestation specific to the valley, much as the Cold Mountain region of the Smokies in North Carolina/Tennessee have their own specific chi manifestations - the goddess is a manifesation of the earth incarnate. I have read that she loses goddess status when she has her first menstruation; in the tradition and folk lore, children are gods and goddesses (some more than others) until they reach their sexual maturity, then they enter the "world" and are people, losing their ling to the Unconscious. Always informative and entertaining, I always come back here.