By Pratima Sapkota
Dhanakumari Bajrachrya (Ajeevan Kumari) was born in Lalitpur in 2009 B.S. She was just 3 years old when she was chosen as the Kumari of Laliltpur. Unlike Kathmandu’s “Living Goddess” who must move to an official residence, the Patan Kumari is allowed to live at her own residence with her family. However, she can appear at public only on festival days when she is paraded through the city to be worshipped by devotees.
But in 1984, Nepal’s then crown prince Dipendra, who was blamed for master minding the royal massacre (murdering his own family members) 17 years later, stirred up a controversy which eventually ended her tenure. ”How can such a grown up girl still become Kumari,” he is reported to have asked publicly during Kumari festival, which forced the 35 year old Kumari into retirement, following which Dhanakumari decided to continue living the life she had always known, unable to abandon her duties or end her withdrawal from the outside world.
Dhankumari, who lives with her brother in Gabahal of Lalitpur, is worshiped with the same respect as the original Kumari.
Champa Bajracharya who takes care of Ajeevan (Life-long) Kumari said that “she became Kumari from three years and remained the main Kumari until 2042, which she reached 35 years of age”. She also said that Dhana Kumari is still a Kumari because she has not menstruated till now”. “Dhanakumari eats only home cooked food and she doesn’t go outside her house”. “Dhankumari only got informal education” Dhankumari only speaks to her family members and some other close relatives”. According to Champa, “she has not yet taken any medicine till date (as she turns 70 now) and she is very much healthy”. Although it is a tradition for the original Kumari to leave the house on special occasions, Dhankumari never has to go out of the house. According to Champa, “she has not come out of the house till today but when 2072 earthquake hit Kathmandu, she came out from the house only after others forced her to do so”. Champa does all the works and take care of the Kumari. Dhankumari wakes up around 6 in the morning, takes a bath and washes and gets ready for worship. Before worshiping, she is adorned as a Goddess. Kumari Puja is held regularly at 9 o’clock. Then she gives darshan to the devotees.
Current Kumari Nahira’s father Niraj Bajrachracharya said that “Kumari was taken out only during the Machindranath Festival and during Dashain”. He said that “devotees visit and worshiped both the Kumari”. “Indian Embassy has given four and a half million rupees to build a Kumari house in Lalitpur, due to which the Kumari could now live in the Kumari house after the house will be constructed”. Prior to this all the Kumaris of Patan used to live in their own house.
The Kumari, a pre-pubescent girl from the Bajracharya caste of the Newar community, is considered an embodiment of the Hindu goddess Taleju. Selection criteria for the Kumari is strict and includes a number of specific physical attributes, from an unblemished body to a lion like chest and a deer like thighs. Every morning she wakes up, drapes an embroidered red skirt like the one she wore during her years as a Kumari, scrapes her hair into a topknot and lines her eyes with kohl curving upwards to her temples. She also wears a crown while sitting on a special seat meant for the Kumari.
On special occasions, she uses red and yellow powder to draw a third eye in the middle of her forehead (known as Agya Chakra), and then takes to a wooden throne decorated with brass snake carvings.