DEVI MAHATMYAM: Mother Goddess declares that she resides in all female living beings in this universe. Only a young girl is chosen over a grown up woman because Durga is considered for her inherent purity and chastity found in a virgin. Purity is an essential characteristics of Mother Durga. Menstruation is the sign of fertility of female puberty. So only girls who yet to be within menstrual cycle or bleeding are chosen.
Kumari Puja forms an essential part of Durga Ashtami Puja which falls on the eight day of Navarathri. In the dawn, the Kumari is bathed in Ganga water and is clad in a red sari. She is then adorned with flowers and jewelry. Tilak is applied to her feet and sindur on her forehead. Even her chair is decorated. Kumaris are worshipped only for a day, usually during the hours of the Kumari worship.
It is said that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsar revived Kumari puja. He prayed to Sarada Ma as Kumari. Swami Vivekananda is said to have venerated 9 kumaris in Belur Math in the presence of Sarada Maa. He is said to have offered puspanjali , gave them sweets and dakshina. He touched their feet after completion of the puja. Later with meditation and mantras he worshipped Sarada Ma as Goddess Durga. In the Mahabaratha, Arjuna had performed Kumari Puja. The Puranas mention the Kumari form as Chandika.
The main essence of Kumari puja is to realise the potential divinity in every human being, especially the female. This ties up with the idea while male god is spiritual energy, the female goddesses is material another without which there is no creation. While Kumari worship does not extend beyond the worshipping hours, Hindus commonly see little girls as divine. Hence they are called affectionately as ‘amma.’
JNANARNAVA RUDRAYAMALA TANTRA: This texts eloborates and assigns different names of Kumaris according to age. First year – Sandhya; second year – Saraswati; third year – Tridhamurti; fourth year – Kalika; fifth year – Subhaga; sixth year – Uma; seventh year Malini; eighth year – Kubjigha; ninth year – Kaalasandharbha; tenth year – Aparajita; eleventh year – Rudrani; twelfth year – Bhairavi; thirteenth year – Mahalakshmi; fourteenth year – Pithanayika; fifteenth year – Kshetragya and sixteenth year – Ambika.
GODDESS KUMARI OF NEPAL: Worshipping a pre-pubescent girl, who is not a born goddess, has been ancient Hindu and later Buddhist tradition. They were seen as the source of supreme power. Nepal has had a rich tradition of gods and goddesses. Kumari worship continues in a formal way to this day. Kumari Devi of Nepal is a living, breathing goddess based on a rich mythology.
According to mythology, the then King of Nepal invited Goddess Taleju, the guardian goddess of the Kingdom of Nepal to play a game of dice. Tajelu acceded to the request and arrives bedecked in god and jasmine flowers. The aroma was astounding and she was of overwhelming beauty. During the dice game, unable to resist the temptation, the King casts his desirous eyes on her. Goddess Tajelu was enraged and left Nepal at once. Thereafter the borders and frontiers were rendered unguarded. This allowed the invading enemies to wage innumerous attacks.
A similar situation also arose in the Ramayana. When a guardian goddess is defeated, the citadel protected by her falls into enemy hands. The guardian goddess Lankeshvari of Lanka, was defeated by Lord Hanuman. It is said that this event was crucial to the fall of Ravana’s Lanka and claimed his crown and throne.
The situation became worst and the king feared for his kingdom and also the crown of leadership. He prayed and begged for Goddess Taleju to return. She could not victimise Nepal for the frailties of the king. As such she appeared in his dreams to intimate that She would re-enter Nepal but in the form of an eight year old mortal and not in her divine form. This was to avoid any lustful looks cast on the goddess in that virgin child form. She further said that as long as she is worshipped that way, the kingdom and the crown shall be save from harm. So to this day, the tradition of choosing a Kumari for worship has been maintained in Nepal.
ELECTING A KUMARI: This seems to be an elaborate affair. It has come down for many generations. Apparently the goddess-elect is from the Sakya community selected according to Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism. She is in the 4-7 years range. Her hososcope is screed for 32 attributes of perfection including color of eyes, shape of teeth and even voice quality. Her selection to sit on the pedestal for worship as Living Goddess has other procedures also.
There is apparently a tantric ritual she goes through in a dark room. The rituals are supposed to be terrifying. The real goddess is one that stays calm and collected throughout the ritual. If this is over then the follow up rituals determine the real Kumari.
After the ceremonies, the spirit of the Goddess Taleju is said to enter her body. She takes on the clothing and jewelry of her predecessor, and is given the title of Kumari Devi, who is worshipped on all religious occasions. She would now live in a place called ‘Kumari Ghar’, at Kathmandu’s Hanumandhoka palace square. It is a beautifully decorated house where the living goddess performs her daily rituals.
In the Indra Jatra festival, the living goddess in all her bejeweled splendor is borne in a palanquin in a religious procession through parts of the Nepalese Capital. It is a grand carnival attended by people in thousands, who come to see the living goddess and seek her blessings. In keeping with an old tradition, the Kumari also blesses the King of Nepal during this festival. Her tenure comes to an end with her first menstruation. That is deemed to have turned her to be human rendering her invalid for worship. The search for the next goddess will have to commence.
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi