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Kumari of Patan

The Kumari girl in her throne-like chair in the reception room.

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The Kumari girl being watched by the security camera.

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Durbar Square

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The Kumari girl in her throne-like chair in the reception room.

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Kumari, or the Living Goddess, is the tradition of worshipping a chosen virgin as a manifestation of the divine female energy of Shakti in Dharmic religious traditions.​

In Nepal, a Kumari is a prepubescent girl selected from the Shakya caste of the Nepalese Newari Buddhist community. This is a particularly prevalent practice in Kathmandu Valley, and it is believed she is the incarnation of Taleju, a manifestation of the goddess Durga.​ Nihira Bajracharya, pictured in this story, was selected in 2018 as Patan's Kumari is the second most important living goddess.​

It is believed that the deity vacates the Kumari girl's body if she becomes seriously ill, has significant blood loss or when her first menstruation begins and is replaced with another specially chosen girl.

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My eyes had difficulties adjusting to the poor lightning when I entered the reception room. The scenario was well organised, with the throne centred against the wall, offerings surrounding her feet and a rug placed in front of her for visitors to kneel on. However, what caught my attention was not the Kumari girl but the bars in the window that gave me a chilling feeling of a prison.

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Offerings given to the Kumari girl in exchange of a blessing. The red Alta dye on her feet represents purity. 

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The Kumari girl is not supposed to speak or display any emotions. Being a human being appointed goddess by other humans five years ago, the only thing I saw was a bored and sad now ten-year-old girl.

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In the hallway outside the reception room, a CCTV camera is installed next to a portrait of the Kumari girl. A symbol of loneliness while all eyes are on her.

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The Kumari girl lives with her parents, Niraj and Mohini Bajracharya, in the Kumari Ghar, a temple in Patan. The temple is located in the city's Durbar Square area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

After the ten-minute-long audience, the Kumari girl is carried by her father out from the reception room into her private room since she is not allowed to touch the floor with her feet.

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The Kumari girl can never go out and play or interact with other children. Which makes me conclude these tiny shoes are not hers.

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Photos of different Kumari girls hanging on a wall at the temple entrance.

It's worth noting that the Kumari tradition is controversial and has been criticized by some human rights groups for potentially violating the rights of the girls selected to serve as Kumari.

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One of many small temples at Durbar Square, close to Kumari Ghar, where the Kumari girl resides.

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