A little taste of another culture

(Photo from Andy Carvin)

Still, to this day, I can be completely stunned, astonished, and confused about the stories I read from other countries. Even if I’m a bit culture-shocked, if I find the story utterly fascinating, I have dozens of tabs opened waiting for my much anticipated research on the topic. Today’s topic; Kumari.

A Kumari is a living goddess in Nepal. Translated, it means virgin in Nepali. It is believed that the Kumari is the incarnation of the goddess Taleju.

Though indeed interesting, what takes place in Nepal every couple of years is also very questionable.

The goddess status is selected among children about the ages of three and four years old. This tradition has been practiced for more than 2600 hundred years now. Parents’ participation has dwindled since the beginning, since now, many mothers do not want to volunteer their daughters. And there’s good reason why.

In order to be considered to become a Kumari, the child must be in excellent health; never shed a drop of blood or have been afflicted by disease, they must not have any blemishes or scars and have not lost any teeth. The young girls who passed this basic test must then pass a more in-depth, yet poetic list of attributes; a neck like a conch shell, a body like a banyan tree, a chest like a lion, eyelashes like a cow, as well as have very dark eyes and hair, petite hands and feet, a set of twenty teeth, and have small, well-recessed sexual organs. On top of that, her horoscope must be harmonious with the king’s.

Now, for the most rigorous of tests, after completing and succeeding the previous examinations, she must, without showing any fear whatsoever, spend the night with the heads of 108 goats and buffaloes. Having passed this test, the girl begins her life as the Kumari, being completely isolated from her family until she reaches puberty (menstruates), which she is then released back to the mortal life and the hands of her family she barely knows.

I found this profoundly interesting. In the culture I live and breathe and understand (sometimes), I couldn’t imagine isolating a child from a normal childhood in belief that she may be a reincarnation of some deity. It is when I read stories that have such an opposite view than my own that I truly appreciate another culture.

There is a lot of other information out there on this topic. I found this article, which lead me to do more research. A few good sources I found are here, here, and here.

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