The Living Goddess & the Real Photographer

On my way back to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal where the majestic mountains take my breath away, I am inspired to share one of my experiences in Durbar Square, Kathmandu (when I was there last time). Guruji whom I had stayed with for two months in India told me to go and see Kumari. ‘If you see her it means that you are blessed with good luck’, he said.

As soon as I arrived in Nepal I went to the square to look for the Kumari Bahal temple and found out that Kumari was a living goddess. The temple was empty and I was the only one in the courtyard. After half an hour a man told me that I would be very lucky to see her. The girl who was about eight years old had gone through rigours tests to prove that she is the incarnation of Durga—a Hindu deity. She was also chosen based on different physical characteristics. Once selected she moves into the temple with her family and only leaves for a very few ceremonial appearances. The living goddess is not allowed to touch the floor so she is carried everywhere. She remains the living goddess until she starts menstruating. He could not tell me what her life would be like after this.

I waited an hour without seeing her and then left to walk around the square. When I returned later she appeared within a short time in one of the small wooden carved windows. She was dressed in red with her big round eyes decorated in black.

Photography was forbidden.

However, I was told that she was going to appear in a square parade the next day. Eagerly, I joined the crowd to catch a glimpse of the living goddess. Waiting, I met one of Nepal’s photographer who told me where to position myself. After some time of waiting they suddenly came running with her through the square. I ran for my life to take photographs. Falling to the ground and on my knees, in the moment of taking these pictures, I felt like a ‘real’ photographer who then reflected upon what a ‘living goddess’ symbolises.

~ Borghild Bø

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