Former princess, Himani Shah, makes news when she goes out of her home. On Feb. 26, 2011 she took her kids to worship the living goddess, Kumari, in Kumari Ghar located at Hanuman Dhoka, Kathmandu. Photo credits – Niranjan Shrestha, Kantipur.
Indra Jatra is the festival to remember Lord Indra, the king of heaven, and the god of rain. In Newari, this festival is also called Yanya Punhi. It is believed that the festival was started by Lichhavi king Gunkamadev in Kaligat Sambat 3822. Indra Jatra also marks the beginning of Dashain and Tihar festivals.
The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of a ceremonial pole, known as Yosin, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Aakash Bhairab. The Aakash Bhairab is represented by a massive mask spouting beer and liquor.
This is the only time of year the households throughout Kathmandu valley display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab. The Kumari, the only living goddess in the world, leaves the seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra, the rain god.
In one old saying, it is said that Indra’s mother needed a type of flower found in Nepal, parijat, for some religious ritual. Indra disguised himself as a human and came to the earth to fetch the flower. But, Indra was unlucky to be caught during stealing the flowers. The people tied Indra with ropes. A statue Maru Tole in Kathmandu depicts the tied Indra and is still being worshipped.
In Indra Chowk, Akash Bhairava bust, decorated with flowers, is displayed. The Akash Bhairava’s head is related to the epic, Mahabharata. Some even believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber.
Some of the variety of performances during Indra Jatra are the dances of Sawa Bhakku Bhairav from Halchowk, Lakhes from Majipat, Devi Nach and Yeravat hathi (Pulukisi) from Naradevi, Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur. These dances take place around the ancient Royal Palace, Hanuman Dhoka.
Indrajatra is the only time PuluKisi (Indra’s Elephant) dances in the public.
Other Lakhe dances are also very popular in Indra Jatra.
To promote Lakhe dance tradition, Narayangarh Bus Park Tol Sudhar and Bus Byawasthapan Samiti is organizing third National Lakhe Dance Competition on September 21 and 22, 2010. The first and second such competition were held in 2064 and 2065 BS. The winner, first runner-up and second runner-up will receive Rs. 30,000, Rs. 20,000, and Rs. 10,000 respectively. All the other participating teams will also be awarded Rs. 5,000 for their participation.
School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam starts on March 25, 2010. This year, about 450,000 students are taking the exam and among them is Kumari, a girl worshipped as a Goddess in Nepali society.
The Kumari of Patan, Chanira Bajracharya, is only allowed to leave her room 19 times a year on certain festivals. That was the reason why the teachers from the local Vashara School have been visiting her to teach in her room for the last ten years. The SLC exam is also arranged such that she doesn’t need to go out of her house for the exam. The SLC exam controllers will go to her house to conduct exam of the single student.
Amidst child right groups’ objection on the tradition itself, three and half year old Matina Shakya has become the new Kumari. She has become the first Kumari who was shown to the general public without being observed by the King. Traditionally Kings used to worship Kumari before she was shown to the public.
A 10-YEAR-OLD girl, worshiped as a living goddess in Nepal has had her title reinstated after defying tradition and visiting the US. Temple authorities at her home town in Bhaktapur were quoted as saying that the visit had tainted her purity, and that they were beginning the search for a successor.
But yesterday they said she would not be stripped of her title because she was willing to undergo a “cleansing” ceremony to remove any sins. Sajani Shakya was one of the three most-revered Kumaris, who are honored by Hindus and Buddhists alike.
Human rights activists believe that the tradition constitutes child abuse.
I will post a detailed review of Kumari tradition in coming days.
Update on March 3, 2008
Living Goddess Kumari, Sajani Shakya, Retired
In a latest news, The 11-year-old Sajani Shakya was revered for nine years as the Kumari of the ancient temple-town of Bhaktapur. Kumaris traditionally retire when they reach the age menstruation.
Kumari Tradition in Nepal
Kumari is some times called a Living Goddess in Nepal. It is a tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu religious traditions. The word Kumari is derived from the Sanskrit Kaumarya, meaning “princess”.
The pre-pubescent girl os selected from the Shakya caste or Bajracharya clan of the Nepalese Newari community. The selected Kumari is revered and worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists in Kathmandu valley. There are several Kumaris in Nepal. The best known Kumari is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu who lives in the Kumari Ghar, located at a palace in the center of the city.
The selection of kumari is a very rigorous process. As of 2010, the Royal Kumari was Matina Shakya, aged four, installed in October 2008 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy. Unika Bajracharya, selected in April 2014 as the Kumari of Patan, is the second most important living goddess in Nepal.