Kumari: Nepal’s Living Virgin Goddess

  • 20150227125132_hannahstarkeyportrait2014originalfile History is Now
    At London’s Southbank Centre, the exhibition History is Now: 7 Artists Take on B…

Maryam Violet

5 May 2015

In Nepal, the Kumari—or, virgin goddess—is not a mere religious icon. Unlike most other Hindu gods and goddesses, the Kumari is a living goddess. She is a real-life pre-pubescent girl worshipped as an embodiment of female divinity. In this short documentary, Zanan TV explores the current traditions surrounding the life and worship of the Kumari.


Selected early in life, each girl who has been chosen to be the Kumari must live an existence fitting for a goddess. This life comes with specific restrictions. For example, each Kumari is forbidden from leaving her place of residence—the Kumari Ghar—except for thirteen days out of the year. When she travels the Kumari is forbidden from walking on the ground. She must ride on the backs of priests when she leaves the residence. This is done out of respect for the earth goddess as one goddess must not tread on another. In this film, one can see priests attending the Kumari and carrying her aloft among public worshippers on an important festival day. The girl’s time as Kumari ends as soon as she reaches puberty and has her first menstrual cycle. At this time, the girl is no longer considered divine and she must go home. Then, a new Kumari is selected.


This film also explores how Kumari worship and the elevation pre-pubescent purity are directly related to the sometimes harmful restrictions placed on menstruating women in Nepali culture. Nepali tradition dictates that a menstruating woman is forbidden from participating in several realms of daily life. She must not visit the temple as she is considered unclean at that time. She is not permitted to cook or even enter a kitchen. She must not sleep with her husband. In fact, menstruating women are often obliged to sleep far away from their houses, sometimes in small caves. This practice in particular has been harmful, even resulting in death, as women sleeping away from the home are often vulnerable to wild animals and violent criminals. In response to these dangerous conditions, NGOs are working to raise awareness on this issue and reform the ways in which menstruating women are treated in Nepal.


A  Zanan TV Production

By Maryam Violet

Vide Editor: Meysam arshadi