Sunday March 25, 2012
By T. SELVA
A rare audience with the Kumari leaves our columnist happy, but wishing for more.
I WRITE this column with fulfilment because I have just returned from Nepal after meeting the Living Goddess, Kumari.
It was a rare opportunity because the Kumaris are revered and worshipped by some of the countryís Hindus as well as the Nepali Buddhists and they do not give private audiences to visitors.
Kumari Ė Sanskrit for a young unmarried girl or virgin Ė is the tradition of worshipping pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy in Hindu religious traditions.
The three officially recognised Kumaris in Nepal live in palaces in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan and they appear twice daily for a few seconds to offer distance blessing to visitors through their sight. Devotees believe that the power of the Kumari is so strong that even a glimpse of her can bring good fortune.
I joined the crowd waiting below the Kumariís window in the courtyard of her palace in Kathmandu. She appeared for 10 seconds and glanced down. The atmosphere in the courtyard was charged with devotion and awe.
That first glimpse made me yearn to have an audience with her and special arrangements were made for me to meet the Kumari of Patan.
In Nepal, the Kumari is worshipped as the Goddess Taleju (Nepalese for Durga, who takes care of the Kathmandu Valley) and people believe the deity resides in the body of a virgin. However, it is believed that when the girl starts to menstruate, the goddess will leave her body.
Even the king of Nepal used to seek blessings from the Kumari; he would bow in front of her and touch her feet, hoping to receive respite from troubles and illnesses. Now that Nepal is a republic, its president seeks the Kumariís blessings.
I was taken to Kumari Ghar, a palace where the nine-year-old Kumari Samita Bajracharya lives, and was led into a small chamber where she was seated on a throne. The room was lit by two oil lamps and there was complete silence and peaceful energy all around.
Dressed in red, she sat on a dais with her hands placed on her lap. Her eyes were painted as a symbol of her special powers of perception. I bowed before her with hands clasped in prayer.
The Kumari did not speak but she looked into my eyes briefly and gave me her blessing by placing some tikka (red dot of vermilion paste which signifies the desire to open the third eye) on my forehead.
The aches and pains I had felt during my journey in Nepal suddenly disappeared and I felt a warm sensation in my body. I placed some Nepali rupees on her lap as a gesture of appreciation for seeing me and she gave a quaint smile.
Taking photos of the Kumari is strictly prohibited but I was allowed to, by virtue of being a writer.
The Hindus believe that worshipping the goddess in a young girl represents the worship of divine consciousness spread all over creation.
Kumaris are selected from the Shakya family of Nepal when they are below five years old. The selection process is especially rigorous: she must be in excellent health, never have shed blood or been afflicted by any disease, be unblemished and have not lost any teeth yet.
Girls who pass the basic requirements are then examined for the 32 perfections of a goddess. Among these are that her hair and eyes should be very black, she should have dainty hands and feet, and a set of 20 teeth.
The girl is also observed for signs of serenity and fearlessness and her horoscope is examined to ensure that it complements the rulerís.
The final test is that the girl must be able to pick out the personal belongings of the previous Kumari from an assortment of things laid out before her. If she can do so, there is no doubt that she is the chosen one. She then goes through purification and ritual ceremonies so that she can be an unblemished representation of Taleju.
Upon completion of the Tantric rites, the girl is dressed and made up as a Kumari. She then leaves the Taleju temple and walks across the square on a white cloth to the Kumari Ghar that will be her home for the duration of her divinity.
The ceremony also ensures that this is the last time her feet will touch the ground, until the goddess departs from her body. Whenever the Kumari ventures outside the palace, she will be carried or transported in her golden palanquin because her feet, like every part of her, are considered sacred and cannot touch the ground.
Kumari in Nepal dates back to 17th century and most of the legends are linked to King Jayaprakash Malla, the last Nepalese king of the Malla Dynasty (12th to17th century CE).
A popular legend has it that a red serpent approached the kingís chambers late one night as he was playing a game of dice with Taleju. The goddess had come every night, on the condition that he refrained from telling anyone about their meetings.
But one night, the kingís wife followed him into his chamber to find out who he was meeting. She saw Taleju.
Angered, the goddess then told the king that if he wanted to see her again or have her protect his country, he would have to search for her among the Shakya community as she would be incarnated as a little girl among them.
Hoping to make amends with his patroness, the king left the palace in search of the young girl possessed by Talejuís spirit.
I left Kathmandu satisfied, but with a strong wish to see the Kumari again.
The columnist will present a talk on finding health remedies through Vasthu Sastra and ancient sciences on April 7, 11am, at The Star Health Fair at Mid Valley Megamall Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur. A similar talk will be held at The Star Health Fair on April 8 at noon at Straits Quay Marine Mall, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Penang. Admission to both the talks is free. To register, call 012-329 9713.
T. Selva, chief news editor at The Star, is author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India. Selva provides tips on Vasthu Sastra on RTMís TRAXX fm at 11.15am on the last Friday of every month. This column appears on the last Sunday of every month.
The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.
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