Authorities in Nepal capital Kathmandu have decided to pay pension to Kumaris, the pre-pubescent girls worshipped as living goddesses but divested of the status once they reach puberty.
The metropolitan council of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office has decided to provide retirement benefits to these former living goddesses out of its fresh budgetary allocation.
Beginning mid-July, the start of Nepal’s fiscal year, eight former Kumaris would receive a monthly sum of Nepali rupees 10,000 (Rs 6,250) as pension.
“This is a gesture to extend our tribute to the former Kumaris. This is also an initiative to preserve our cultural heritage,” KMC’s chief executive officer Laxman Aryal told The Kathmandu Post.
His office has also earmarked NRs 12 lakh (Rs 7.5 lakh) from KMC’s heritage preservation fund for various welfare schemes meant for the former living goddesses of Kathmandu.
“We hail the KMC decision as a great step towards cultural preservation,” Gautam Shakya, chairman of Indrajatra Management Committee, told the newspaper.
During the annual Indrajatra, a Kumari is taken across town in a procession.
Besides monthly allowances, Shakya stressed on the need to provide education, training and job opportunities to the former Kumaris.
A Kathmandu Kumari gets a monthly sum of NRs 40,000 (Rs 25,000) from the government till she is worshipped in that capacity. But the payment is stopped once she is removed on attaining puberty.
Started in the 17th century by the Malla rulers of Kathmandu Valley, the tradition of worshipping pre-pubescent girls has continued even after the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal.
These girls from the Newari community are chosen based on a variety of factors for worship.
The Kumaris of Kathmandu are the most important of all living goddesses in Nepal followed by the Kumaris of Patan and Bhaktapur, the two other places in Kathmandu Valley where they are worshipped.
While the Kumaris of Lalitpur and Kathmandu stay in ‘palaces’ and have restrictions on their public outings, a Kumari of Bhaktapur is allowed to stay with her parents and can go to school or venture out on her own.