“The Royal Kumari of Kathmandu.”
While walking around the Kathmandu’s Darbar Square, someone pointed us towards a wooden gate and said: “Go inside.” I was puzzled as I didn’t ask him for any directions. He looked at my expressions and said the Goddess is about to come, and you should hurry up. “Goddess?” and curiously, we went inside the carved wooden door, which opened in a courtyard surrounded by a three-storeyed red-brick building.
History of the Royal Kumari
Later in the evening, when I read about this place, I got to know that the rustic building we were in is called Kumari Ghar and was build by King Jaya Prakash Malla, the last King of the Malla Dynasty, in 1757. There are many legends about the Kumari, but the most famous story goes by that Goddess Taleju would come every night and play a dice game with the King, and the King promised her secrecy about their meeting.
Once while playing the game with the King, goddess Taleju was seen by the queen one night. The Goddess got furious and left the palace. She then told the King that she would reincarnate in a little girl of the Newari (Shakya) community. Since then, the royal Kumari is selected from the Shakya community and worshipped in Nepal.
Selection process and the last walk
The process of selecting the living Goddess is in various phases and is rigorous and questionable for a child of that age. Once the Kumari is selected, she walks to the Kumari Ghar, which is also the last time she touches the ground as a Royal Kumari. From that day onwards, she would only be carried and stay off the ground as her feet are considered to be sacred and pious. The Kumari lives on the first floor of Kumari Gharand is worshipped till her menarche. After that, she becomes mortal, and the search for a new Kumari begins.
Finally, when the Goddess arrived
While I was admiring the Red-brick architecture for a long time, I realized the crowd has grown in number, and towards the main entrance on our left, 20-25 people were waiting to see the living Goddess. A few more minutes passed a lady came out from the balcony and ensured that all the mobiles and cameras were switched off as the presence of such things would pollute the Goddess.
Also, it was prohibited to take her pictures. When someone from the crowd answered that all mobiles were off and the lady who seems to be the Kumari’s caretaker was satisfied, the Goddess arrived. Everyone quickly bowed their heads down in prayers, I looked into her eyes, and she looked back. Those were the eyes of a five-year-old, curious to see people who came to see her. And within a couple of seconds, she went back.
The present Royal Kumari of Kathmandu is Trishna Shakya, and she was selected in the year 2017 when she was only three. Though the Royal Kumari doesn’t need to worry about the material things but imagine the life of a three-year-old, settled on the first floor of a building and carried out only for royal processions and to bless people every few hours.
Books to read on Royal Kumari
I couldn’t resist reading more about the living Goddess of Nepal. There are a couple of books written around the royal Kumari of Kathmandu, and if you want to know more, there is no better way than picking one of these accounts:
The Living Goddess: The journey into the heart of Kathmandu.
This book by Isabella Tree is an impressive combination of mythology and history, with the author’s own experiences throughout this journey.
From Goddess To Mortal: The True Life Story of a Former Royal Kumari
This book is written by Rashmila Shakya, who is a writer and an engineer. The book is a first-hand account by a former Kumari and presents the challenges faced by the Royal Kumari once they try to settle in the mortal world again.