When Andy and I set off on our travels we knew that we would get to experience many different things regarding religion, but we never thought that we would ever be in the same building as a living goddess.
The Royal Kumari is a living goddess in Patan, and as a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Durga she is worshiped by Hindus and Nepali Buddhists. The potential toddler-aged goddesses must meet many different requirements, such as never having lost a tooth and being in excellent health, before they are narrowed down to a select group and are then put through a variety of tests until the real goddess is chosen. Once the priests find their goddess the final test is to put her alone into a room with the heads of a bunch of ritually slaughtered animals that are illuminated by candle light to spend the night. If she gets scared the hunt for a new goddess begins afresh. If she isn’t frightened she lives as a goddess in a building along Patan’s Durbar Square until she has her first period which supposedly causes Durga to leave her body. Man, this religion stuff can get confusing. Andy and I were only allowed as far as her courtyard, but that’s closer to a goddess than I ever thought I would be in my lifetime.
After leaving the goddess’ abode we wandered around Durbar Square where we spent time looking at the pagoda style temples and spent even more time looking at all of the intricate wood carvings that adorned each temple. Patan is a very artistic city and renowned for it’s multitude of wood carvers and metal workers who are commissioned throughout Nepal to create a wide variety of religious art. On the streets surrounding the square there were many shops packed with art of all kinds, but since we were a little limited on room we only window shopped.
Patan has a really comprehensive museum where we got to see exactly how the traditional metal work is done by viewing a statue in various stages of creation. It looked like a pretty time consuming deal, but the final product was amazing and can only be made in that particular traditional way. The museum also had exhibitions on Buddhist art and Hindu art which helped answer some of our questions about the religions and different deities, but somehow having those questions answered created even more questions and left me in the same state of confusion I was at the beginning. We decided to celebrate our museum trip with an apple pie Ala mode and two filter coffees in the garden cafe. Having not had either of those things in quite a while it was almost as memorable as the museum exhibits themselves and well worth the jacked up price.
After another lap around Durbar Square it was back to Kathmandu.