Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries. Kumari literally means virgin in Sanskrit, Nepali and other Indian languages and is a name of the goddess Durga as a child. In Nepal a Kumari is a prepubescent girl selected from the Shakya clan of the Nepalese Newari community. The Kumari is revered and worshiped by some of the country’s Hindus as well as the Nepali Buddhists, though not the Tibetan Buddhists. In India a Kumari is generally chosen for one day and worshipped accordingly on certain festivals like Navaratri or Durga Puja. In the Indian state of Bengal this is a particularly prevalent practice.
While there are several Kumaris throughout Nepal, with some cities having several, the best known is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu, and she lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city. The selection process for her is especially rigorous. The current Royal Kumari, Matina Shakya, aged four, was installed in October 2008 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy.
A Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepalese name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body. Serious illness or a major loss of blood from an injury are also causes for her to revert to common status.