Jane Wilson-Howarth

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Meeting the Kumari

Tuesday, 25 September 2018
The great thing about travel is it lends a fresh perspective. Returning home, you see all the lovely little details you otherwise don’t notice and appreciate what makes it comfortable and wonderful. But having enjoyed a spectacularly sunny summer in the UK, I was ready to leave England and return to my adopted home in Nepal.
I arrived at the weekend just as the monsoon is losing its vigour, and yesterday decided to pedal across the crazy Patan-Kathmandu conurbation to mingle amongst the crowds celebrating Indra Jatra. That is the one day in the year when the Kumari comes out and people gather hoping for a glimpse of the Living Goddess, whose feet may not touch the ground.
I’m not sure what I think about the practise of worshipping the Kumari. She’s chosen when she’s aged perhaps three or four and is venerated by Buddhists as the embodiment of Vajradevi and by Hindus as Telaju.
She has a strange childhood, being worshipped daily, until her first menstruation when she is replaced by a new virgin.
I’ve met the Patan Kumari but Nepalis feel that the Kathmandu Kumari is supreme as, over the generations, the Kumari has given her blessings to the Malla and then the Shah kings. The story behind this festival is that the Indra, the lord of heaven, came down to earth to gather night-scented jasmine to offer in an act of devotion (a puja) to his mother. He was in disguise but a tantric priest from Kathmandu recognised him, kidnapped him and secured him with a magic thread. Realising what had happened. Indra's mother came to the city in person and offered morning mist as a ransom payment for the release of her son.
As always seems to be the case with any Nepali celebration there was plenty of percussion and yesterday bands seemed to be in competition in trying to see which could give us the worst tinnitus. I even wondered if I might need to offer medical help as young folks laid into their drums sweat streaming off them in the hot sun and swaying as if dehydration and heat exhaustion might take them at any moment. Adrenaline and camaraderie seemed to win out though and the drumming continued through the appearance of the Kumari.
And what heartened me most was to see that she was smiling. Perhaps her strange secluded childhood isn’t all bad.
 
Competitive drumming for the Living Godess
 
The Kumari just visible in her palanquin. Rebuilding in Kathmandu's Durbar Square continues hence the green drapes.
 
Teams drumming for the Kumari. Note the top of her marigold-garlanded chariot behind
 
The Kumari of Kathmandu being lifted into her chariot to parade the streets
Posted: 25/09/2018 12:34:58 by cmsadmin | with 0 comments
Filed under: Indra Jatra, Kathmandu, kidnap, Kumari, living goddess, morning mist, Patan, percussion



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