Kings and Goddesses

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
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Monday, September 27, 2004

Today was the festival of Indra Jatra, one of the major festivals in the Kathmandu valley. The legend goes that the rain god Indra was causing havoc, and flooding the valley, so the young men set out to put a stop to it. They captured Indra and ordered him to stop the rain before they would release him. Indra complied, and every year they commemorate the occasion at the end of the monsoon. They held a big celebration in Durbar square in Kathmandu- I managed to get a space perched on some temple steps to watch. First regiments of gurkhas marched in, including a band. Then the prime minister and dmplomats arrived to watch fromteh balcony of the old royal palace, then the King and Queen arrived. There was a ceremonial dance, showing the villagers chasing Indra (watched by Bhairab, one of the more scary gods round here! he has lots of red hair in this version and looks like Animal in a VERY bad mood!). Then a small boy dressed as Indra was wheeled in on a huge wooden chariot, followed by a boy dressed as Bhairab. Then it's the Kumari's turn. The Kumari is the Living Goddess- the goddess Durga incarnated in human form. She is a prepubescent girl who will be the goddess until she gets her first period, when the goddess takes a new incarnation. During her time of divintiy, the Kumari lives in a palace, leaving only during important festivals such as Indra Jatra. She seemed very small, dressed in a red sari and carried so her feet would never touch the floor. She was pulled in on a third chariot, and stopped to greet the king before being towed away for a madcap whirl round Kathmandu.

Apparently the Kumari never gets married when she returns to human form. This is possibly sensible- imagine being married to someone who is used to being treated as a god! You'd spend your whole life making them cups of tea.... But for the unfortunate ex-deity it means life as an outcast. A very high price for a few years of divinity.
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