Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kumari - The Living Goddess

So this was the first time I ever heard of the Living Goddess Kumari. It seemed fine (somewhat) in theory - a young girl is an image of the divine female energy which gave birth to the universe. And in any case, there are many who believe that the divine resides in all of us; so I didn't think it odd that the Nepalis worship a Living Goddess.

But then we visited the Living Goddess' home (Kumari Ghar) in Kathmandu's royal palace. And as we set foot in that home, I couldn't believe that this was the home of a 5-year old. The 'palace' is ancient, stuffy...it was a dark, dingy temple rather than a home in the first place. We never actually got to see Kumari (foreigners are not allowed to enter her room or seek her blessings); but I could picture a 5-year old girl sitting with a painted face, away from her parents, blessing believers who bowed to her feet. And I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in that little girl's head. Does she believe in her own divinity; does she feel burdened with this responsibility of national welfare at the age of 5; does she wish she could run in the fields or does she feel superior to the kids who run in the fields or is she oblivious of the 'normal' life that other kids have; does she feel anxious that she will turn into a mortal once she reaches puberty; does she crave for her mother's hug?

The parents who get their daughters to 'contest' the selection process to become a Kumari obviously think of it as a privilege to have their little girl selected as a Goddess. But the mother must feel a tug at her heart when she sends off her precious little girl to a temple in the custody of unknown priests who perform secret rituals to her baby. The whole idea of that beautiful little girl in that temple made me shudder!


clickable said...

Have you seen Seven Years in Tibet? It portrays the young Dalai Lama, who goes through very similar feelings.

Her story is so, so sad.

Radha said...

Haven't seen it, but I can imagine, the current Dalai Lama was appointed as the head of Tibet at the age of 2; so his childhood must have been so different from my 2-year-old's.

I'm not sure how sad it is though, because happiness/ sadness are such relative terms. The previous Kumaris have gone on with 'life after puberty', got married, had kids of their own, had a normal life & apparently they've always referred to their life as a goddess as a privilege, without any sourness towards their abnormal childhood. Maybe they've spent too much of their childhood being conditioned to think like that. Or perhaps its faith that makes them believe in their own specialness in those years. Who knows.