Kumari – The Living Goddess

Kumari symbolizes a goddess like figure who is revered by the inhabitants of Kathmandu. Also known as the living goddess, a young girl is specially chosen through intricate customs and traditions to be declared a goddess for a certain period of time.


Kumari Jatra

Kumari Jatra/festival celebrates the Kumari, a virgin deity. A custom started by King Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu, offers tribute to the major goddess Taleju Bhawani. Kumari is popularly known to be the incarnation of Taleju Bhawanai.

Kumari overlooking from Kumari Ghar
Kumari

The procession of Kumari, accompanied by the relics of Bhairava and Ganesha, is carried out in a chariot throughout Kathmandu city for 3 days following the Indra Jatra. The first day procession leads through downtown Kathmandu; the second leads through the uptown; and the final procession is carried out in the midtown.

The selection process of Kumari is an elaborate affair, headed by the Newar Buddhist priests. The operation is carried out in accord to the law dictated by Vajrayana Buddhism. The girls aged 4-7 are pre-screened and selected for a task involving meeting the deities in a dark room. The one who remains composed and calm throughout the process is declared the goddess. The locals believe that the spirit of Taleju Bhawani enters the body of the girl hence giving her the spiritual identity, and the term of being a goddess remains until her first menstruation.

Legend says,

Taleju Bhawani was the king’s political and social advisor and would give important tips to the king on good governance. However, during one of their meetings, the king, overwhelmed by desire, attempted to rape the goddess inside the Taleju Bhawani temple, prompting the goddess to disappear and vow never to appear before the king again. Worried by the goddess’ proclamation, the king begged her to reconsider her decision. Taking sympathy on the poor king, Taleju pledged to reside within the Kumari, a virgin girl from the city.

Jaya Prakash Malla identified the right Kumari and built a palace for her in the Hanumandhoka area. In honour of Taleju Bhawani and the Kumari, he began a separate procession called the Kumari Jatra, which happened to fall on the third day of Indra Jatra.

It is celebrated as a part of the greater festival Yenya Punhi or the Indra Jatra. The festival belongs to the Newar community of Kathmandu valley, the predominant inhabitants of the region. Celebrated as a street festival, it carries a historic and mythological significance to the bygone Malla Kingdom of Nepal.

Today, the festival is marked with grand processions and is observed by locals and tourists alike. It remains one of the major festivals of Nepal.

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Kasthamandap – The Lost Heritage of Kathmandu

The Kathmandu city originally got its name from the public shelter located at the center of the city, Kasthamandap. A popular public shelter and a tourist landmark was lost in the major earthquake of 2015.


Overview

Kasthamandap was a three-storied public shelter that included a shrine consecrated to Gorakshanath situated at Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu. The word Kasthamandap literally translates to ‘Wood Shelter’ in English. The landmark was a popular tourist site for ages, until it was destroyed by the earthquake.

It is supposedly known to have been constructed out of a single Sal tree. It first served as a community center where devotees gathered for major religious and cultural ceremonies. Later, it was turned into a temple dedicated to Gorakhnath, a 13th-century ascetic who was subsequently linked to the then royal family.

A central wooden enclosure houses the image of the god, which is noteworthy since Gorakhnath is usually represented only by his footprints. In the corners of the building are four images of Ganesha.

Many street vendors chose the spot to setup their dingy shops due to the constant inflow of visitors. It served as one of the popular tourist landmarks at Hanumandhoka.

History

It was believed to have been constructed in 12th century during the Malla empire. Several myths about the construction of the Kasthamandap Temple have been resolved with the recent archaeological findings. The excavated objects from the destroyed site suggests that it may have been built in around 7th century, during Lichhavi empire.

The construction residue left from the excavation proved vital to link the landmark to 7th century period. The premise idolizes the greater lifestyle and culture of Kathmandu. The usage of wood for major construction and the ornate designs, color and decorations has always been indigenous to the greater Kathmandu inhabitants, Newars.

Destruction

The major earthquake of 2015 shook the entire Nepal with its magnanimous force. Most of the old temples and premises were left completely destroyed.The earthquake caused the casualty of over 8,000 souls.

Kasthamandap along with the surrounding temple and the historical palace were partially or fully destroyed. The reconstruction of the palace and other premises are well under the operation. The site of Kasthamandap remains empty with only the shrine of Gorakhnath.