A day in the life of Lalitpur’s Living Goddess

Five young girls were brought to the Ratnakar Mahavihar in Gabahal, Lalitpur (Patan), on the afternoon of February 5, 2018. Some of the girls were as young as two. The excitement in their faces was visible; why not? One of them would take charge as the Kumari of Patan, the living goddess for one of the three medieval kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley.

After a few minutes, the announcement was made. Five-year-old Nihira Bajracharya was chosen.

“The new Living Goddess is here.”

Since then, Nihira has been worshiped like a god. She has been restricted to multiple rules and regulations which have to be followed by every living goddess.

Everyday, pilgrims, mostly from Lalitpur area, get down on their knees and bow down to the young goddess, who gently applies a tika on their forehead and blesses them good fortune. But, if one takes off their religious glasses, they will sure see a fun loving child in the young Kumari.

Nihira copying a poem written on the whiteboard by her teacher on her notebook.

Since the day she was made the new Kumari, Nihira has been living at the Ratnakar Mahavihar with her family. Her mother Mohini Bajracharya left her job to look after her daughter. Her father Niraj Ratna Bajracharya along with her grandfather Dibya Ratna are always around her.

Nihira’s leaning a Nepali poem from her teacher.

As a Kumari, Nihira cannot go to school; but teachers of all subjects come to the Kumari Ghar and teach her.

Nihira in her own world trying to learn English alphabets.

When she does not understand, Nihira softly asks her teachers for help. She also shows her teachers her homework. A few teachers say that while she’s mostly active, there are times that Nihira is quite lazy.

Nihira using her fingers to make sure the space between each word is the same.

While studying, her eyes gaze somewhere else, which indicates that she no longer wants to study. The teachers understand that and leave, after giving her some homework.

When she gets bored with the lessons, she loves playing with her dolls and other toys in her free time.

Nihira’s favourite pastime though is watching YouTube.

Looking at her own pictures clicked by various media outlets.

Looking at a photograph of her family. The Kumari looks lost when she looks at everything in detail.

Nihira likes to rest when she doesn’t have visitors.

After people ring the bell on the ground floor of the Kumari Ghar, Nihira sits on her throne waiting for her devotees. People from all across the globe come to see her.

Waiting for guests to arrive.
Nihira applying tika on a young devotee.

While playing a video on YouTube, Nihira applies tika on a devotee.

She sits on her throne and applies tika on her devotees. He expression changes as soon as the flow of devotees decreases.

Sometimes she gets irritated as dozens of visitors click her picture.
Nihira gets agitated if her makeup is not proper. Watching her expression, her parents understand that something is wrong with her makeup. She applies lipstick and mascara by herself.

 

The 33-day-long Rato Machindranath Jatra concluded last Sunday. During the festival, Kumari has to be present on eight occasions.

Kumari being taken out of her home in Ratnakar Mahavihar in Lalitpur.

Those are the only times Nihira is allowed to leave home. In this different environment, her eyes light up with excitement.

Nihira smiles after getting out after a long while.

Nihira surrounded by children of her own age while outside.

Visitors seeking blessings from Kumari while she is outside.

The Kumari is taken to Lagankhel on the day a coconut is thrown from the Rato Machindranath chariot. While taken outside, Nihira is extremely observant.

Nihira being carried to Jawalakhel on the last day of the Rato Machhindranath Jatra.

Meanwhile, a road is being mended a few steps away from the Kumari Ghar.

People queuing up to take blessings from the Kumari.

The Kumari gets the busiest during the Rato Machhindranath Jatra, which is why many of her pictures look tired. Every time she’s taken out of the house, hundreds of devotees come to seek blessings. In the process, she feels quite monotonous and bored at times.

 

On the last day of the festival, the Kumari is taken to Jawalakhel to observe the Bhoto Dekhaune Jatra. People believe that the Kumari’s blessing is a must to make sure that the festival ends without any trouble. On the final day, the head of the state also visits her.

At Jawalakhel, on the day of Bhoto Dekhaune Jatra

Nihira watching a Newari dance at Jawalakhel

 

President Bidya Devi Bhandari taking blessing from the Kumari.

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