Nepal’s former ‘Living Goddesses’ to get pensions

Kathmandu, Jan 14: Officials in Kathmandu have announced monthly allowances of Nepali Rs.10,000 would be provided to ‘Kumaris’ or ‘Kumari Devis’, the young prepubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or Hindu religious tradition.

The word ‘Kumari’, derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Kaumarya’ meaning virginity, is used to describe young unmarried girls in Nepali and some Indian languages. ‘Kumari’ is also a name of Goddess Durga as a child.

Recognising them as an integral part of the ancient city’s cultural heritage and given the belief in public about the ‘Kumari’ tradition, the metropolis has announced it would provide some financial benefit to them.

Mostly, ‘Kumaris’ are selected from ‘Shakya’ and ‘Bajracharya’ clan of Nepali-Newari community and revered and worshiped by some of the country’s Hindus as well as the Nepali Buddhists, though not the Tibetan Buddhists.

Kathmandu has a majority of inhabitant from Newari community.

The metropolis has decided to distribute the benefits from mid-July in the next fiscal year to eight of them who once held the prestigious and religious position of ‘Kumari’ and were worshiped by millions.

“This is a gesture to extend our tribute to the former ‘Kumaris’,” Kathmandu Metropolitan City chief Laxman Aryal was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.

He added this was also an initiative to preserve cultural heritage, which is one of the metropolis’s main priorities.

An annual budget of Nepali Rs.1.2 million from Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Heritage Preservation Fund has been earmarked for the former Kumaris’ welfare scheme.

“We hail the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s decision as a great step towards cultural preservation,” said Gautam Shakya, chairman of the Indrajatra Management Committee which selects the ‘Kumari’.

The sitting ‘Kumari’ receives a monthly allowance of Rs.40,000 from the government.

IANS