06/26/2007, 00.00
NEPAL
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A living deity reclaims her right to a normal life

by Kalpit Parajuli
An ex Hindu Kumari speaks of her reclusion spent in isolation, deprived of friendship, family and education. Now in the wake of having deposed, she has graduated from high school and promises to challenge the “inhuman superstition” which would have her remain single for the rest of her life.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – They are born mortal humans, members of the lower castes, but are then elevated to the realms of the living deities; forced to live in isolation from early childhood, without friends and deprived of an education, on their first menstruation or sign of illness they return human once more, have to drastically adapt themselves to the difficulties of everyday life.  They are the Kumari, Hinduism’s living deities, who are now beginning to rebel against the “inhuman superstitions” who in Nepal, are forced to live a lonely single life, deprived of affection in the belief that anyone who marries them will die within a few months.

Rashmila Shakya, born in Kwahiti, was a Kumari from 1984 to 1991. She is now 24 years old and is about to graduate in Computer Technology.  At the age of 4 she was taken from her family to become a divinity.  “During childhood I was confined within a Kumari Ghar (the temple dedicated to the living deities) without any formal education and now I am young but why I can`t marry?”. The girl remembers: “There was no formal education system then. An old tutor used to come everyday to teach me for an hour. But that wasn't sufficient in any way”. Rashmila only began formal education at the age of 12, when she was substituted with a new Kumari. Now she is reclaiming her right to abnormal life and defines the practise of imposing a life spent alone an “inhuman superstition”. It is believed that any man who marries a former Kumari is condemned to die within six months, coughing blood.

The Kumari, or virgin deity, is a Hindu cult practised in Nepal, and represents the reincarnation of Dea Taleju Bhawani, also known in India as Durga. The Kumari are chosen among the Buddhist children of the Newar Shakya caste, resident in Kathmandu for at least three generations; the cast is the same one to which Buddha belonged.  Even if chosen among Buddhists they are equally venerated by Hindus.  During her annual feast, Kumari Jiatra, she is permitted to go out in public in a covered carriage.

As they are considered omniscient the Kumari are not educated.  More recently a tutor is assigned to them, a modernisation made necessary by their difficult rehabilitation to normal life.

 

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