The Living Goddess of Patan
Photographer: Narendra Shrestha
A Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is a 'living goddess'. The world literally means virgin in Nepali. The Living Goddesses are young pre-pubescent girls that are considered to be incarnations of the Hindu Goddess of Power, Kali. They are worshipped in Nepal by both Hindus and Buddhists. Samita Bajracharya was appointed the new Kumari of Patan City after her predecessor, Chanira Bajracharya, then aged 16, reached puberty, which means that she is considered ritually unclean.
After becoming Kumari in October 2010, Samita could no longer go to school, play outside, or touch her friends - all these things are considered to make her ritually impure. St. Xavier's School has given the Kumari a computer on which she can play games and draw with the Paint application. Along with the computer, the management committee of St. Xavier's school has offered the young Kumari a free education. Teachers come to Kumari Ghar, the private residence of the living goddess, and give lessons to the young girl for three hours a day. On the weekend, Samita is able to invite friends to play at her house.
The Kumari is often confined to her home, but there are some days when she is allowed to appear in front of the public. Yet she has to be carried from her from home to the events, never allowing her feet to touch the ground as this is considered unlucky. Devotees take her blessing by offering flowers, money and touching her feet. Everyone from businessmen starting new ventures, students preparing for a big exam, to people just hoping to find strength and improve ailing health visit the Kumari at Kumari Ghar for blessings.
Samita Bajracharya will remain a Kumari until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body and the Guthi must begin the search for the next young girl to become the Kumari.