Kumari is a living virgin goddess worshipped in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal. The living kumari is a young prepubescent girl who is chosen in an elaborate process similar to that of Tibetan lamas, after which the Nepalese believe the goddesses Taleju or Durga inhabits her body. Taleju is the protective goddess of the country and its ruler. The kumari is worshipped as the goddess and honored in the annual Indra Jaatra harvest festival. The kumari tradition originated from the unique Nepalese interplay of the Hindu and Vajrayana Buddhist religions. There are various kumari in Nepal, but the most significant is the Kumari Devi (Raj Kumari) of Kathmandu.

Kumari Devi, one of Nepal's virgin “Living Goddesses,” photographed in Kathmandu in 2007.


Senior Vajracharya Buddhist priests select the ...

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