The June edition of National Geographic features an intriguing article called “Living Goddesses of Nepal” by Isabella Tree. This article delves into the ancient Nepali practice of choosing a living goddess, or kumari. A kumari is believed to behold healing powers, as well as the power of creative energy. A kumari is worshipped until she reaches puberty, and is then expected to return to normal life. Hundreds of years ago, every town in Kathmandu had its own kumari. Today, there are only ten. Through Tree’s research, she finds this is in part due to criticisms of this cultural practice that deem it immoral because of the Kumaris tough transition back to an average lifestyle. Tree cites this claim as true through her interview with an ex-kumari who still has issues with public speaking almost ten years later. This article outlines the costs and benefits that this unique Nepali tradition has on its culture.
I was thrilled to see this article in National Geographic, because Nepal’s rich culture is one of the most intriguing globally. I believe that the preservation of culture is one of the most important aspects to life in what is becoming an increasingly modern society. Holding on to cultural practices, while modifying them for safety is largely important, and this article discusses the perfect example of this. Tree does a great job of comparing past to present rituals and providing theories for how and why change has occurred. Her interviews with future, present, and past kumaris is unique, and the images presented with her article are captivating.
Learn more about this ancient tradition below: