The abode of the virgin goddesses of Nepal

The three-storey house, built of red brick Kumari Ghar has a history of more than 260 years, is the residence of the virgin goddess in Kathmandu.

Located at the junction of Dubar and Basantapur squares, the capital city of Kathmandu, is a three-story red brick building that houses the Kumari (virgin goddess). The house, called Kumari Ghar or Kumari Bahal, was built by King Jaya Prakash Malla in 1757. The building has magnificent typical Nepalese architecture with elaborate wooden sculptures of gods and symbols. cultural icon of the country, according to the Nepal Tourism Board.

Inside the building is the Kumari Chowk, a large, square brick courtyard. Surrounding the courtyard are the intricately carved wooden balconies and windows of the three-story house. "This makes it possibly the most beautiful indoor courtyard in Nepal," commented Lonely Planet , a US-based travel book publisher.

The building was built in the style of a Buddhist monastery. In the center of the courtyard is a miniature stupa bearing the symbol of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music, art and nature. During a major earthquake in 2015, the house suffered only minor damage, despite the damage to surrounding structures and roads. Many people believe that the house is still intact thanks to the blessing of the virgin saint who lives there.

Visitors can visit the house for free, but cannot enter, but only stand in the courtyard in the middle. Kumari appeared by the window from 9 to 11 o'clock. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures of the goddesses but can take pictures in the courtyard area when Kumari is not present.

The courtyard area of ​​the building, where visitors are allowed to visit and take photos. Photo: KTM guide

There are very few pictures of the inside of the house where Kumari lives because this place is considered a sacred place, not everyone is allowed to enter. Some recorded images show that inside the building are spacious brick rooms, simply furnished. Kumari's living room has red carpet and tiled floors, and red curtains. There was only one chair in the room with a backrest for Kumari. Others will sit on the ground or carpet. On the living room walls and other places such as the stairs hang portraits of previous Kumari.

At the large yellow gate to the right of the throne is the place for the giant chariot, used to bring the living goddess to parade around the city during the annual Indra Jatra festival. The eight-day Indra Jatra is considered the most enjoyable and revered event by the people of the Kathmandu valley. They poured into the street and followed the chariot on which the goddess sat to be blessed.

The Kumari are worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists. People believe that Kumari is the incarnation of Goddess Durga (the mother goddess in Hinduism).

Kumari is not allowed to talk to strangers, except for family and close friends. That girl will no longer be a goddess when her first period appears.

A virgin goddess in Nepal. Photo: AFP

After a Kumari's term ends, the authorities will organize a search for a new saint. To become the chosen one, girls have to pass more than 30 rigorous tests by the elders. One of the criteria to be selected is that the girl must have "a neck as slender as a conch, the gentle eyes of a cow".

The goddess often appears in front of the crowd with a well-made face, a red dress with a sophisticated design, and a lot of jewelry. Apart from festive occasions, the goddess has to stay in the room during the Kumari Ghar. Their daily tasks include getting up early, bathing and performing rituals, reading newspapers or watching television.

Her feet must not touch the ground because people consider the ground to be unclean. Most goddesses will move by being carried or sitting in a palanquin. The private room was the only place they could walk. During festivals, people will kiss the feet of the goddess for blessings. After the end of their term as goddesses, the girls continue to go to school to study and get married, have children, and live normal lives like everyone else.

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