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Kumari Ghar: An Architectural Marvel

tbculture 07 May 2022
Kumari Ghar, Kathmandu Durbar

The Kumari Ghar, popularly known as the KumariBahal, is of town house design. It is the first structure to meet the visitor of Durbar Sauare as it lies at theBashantapur Durbar Square. It is above all the sacred home of the living goddess or vestal virgin and it has housed goddess- children since it was built by King Jay Prakash Malla in 1757 A.D. (1813 B.S.) The three-step entrance to the shrine is guarded by two stone lions painted white. The outer doorway has a huge wooden Toran a very impressive display of the temple artistry as do each of the four wooden windows of the first floor and seven windows of the second floor. The four large outer windows of the second level have famous peacock designs filling them. The windows of the third floor are more usual including black-painted triple groupings at the center which slants forward, and round windows in rectangular frames between these groups. Deeply carved Cornices (an ornamental molding around the wall of a room just below the ceiling) stands below the upper two rows of windows. The title roof has a very gradual slant and is supported by small struts of simple divine figures which do not rest on the cornices far below them but attached directly to the wall. A triple spire pinnacle with triple umbrellas on a floral framework of three arches over the spires completes the exterior.

The Kumari is a young girl who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga.There are about 11 kumaris across Nepal, but the Kumari Devi (or Raj Kumari – royal goddess) in Kathmandu is the most important.The selection process for finding the Kumari Devi resembles that of the Tibetan lamas, who are believed to be reincarnations of their predecessors. She is chosen from girls aged three to five in the Buddhist Shakya clan. Elders meet with hundreds of girls, approving only those with 32 auspicious signs of divinity (mostly to do with natural perfection and symbolically significant features.The girls’ horoscopes are also checked to ensure they are compatible with those of the current king.The Kumari’s reign comes to an end when her menstruates or slight injury on her body. The girl reverts to mortal fame and seeks for her replacement begins. She is given a modest state pension, and it is believed marrying former Kumari will die young.

Combination of vertical columns and horizontal beams i.e. trabeated system. It consists of square based timber columns.Cornice are formed by carved timber ties. Cornice differentiate the level betweeenthreestoreys.The wall (Gara) are of 24-18 inches thick which are made up of ‘A’ class bricks and are later on polished using varnish to give it a smooth finishing.The sculpture is three storied and is in square shaped with a chowk at middle. The chowk consists of open space.The house of the living goddess has walls that are artistically painted with many different religious crafts. The wall paintings are found only inside the KumariGhar, wherein one can find rare and colorful paintings of gods and goddesses belonging to various tantric traditions like Mahaganesh, Mahabhairav, Mahakumari,Vaishnavi, Tulaja Bhawani, Mahavarahi, Mahaindrayani, Mahachamunda, Mahalaxmi, Mahabrahmayani and Manamaheshwori. The plinth of kumarighar is made up of coursed as well as un-coursed stones using mud mortar which is in 24 inches higher from ground level. Plinth level is placed all around the walls.Post is of 17-18 inches.

Roofing rafters are closely spaced and laid in fan pattern.Struts-Carvings of gods. Top roof main rafters along edges, also fanning rafters.KumariGhar consist of Top-Leaves and creeperstoranas. Middle celestial image. And at bottom there is image of
carrier of animals.

The ground floor has exquisitely carved doors with tympanums worked with equal mastery. Among the three doors, only the middle one is open. The stone steps leads to the main door and has two life-size lions placed on either sides as guards to both, the temple and the deity. The northern side has 22 exquisitely carved windows in various forms. There are a total of 11 TikiJhyas or AkhiJhyas, three Ga Jhyas, two ChaklaJhyas and six Sa Jhyas. The main Ga Jhya directly over the main entrance is gold-plated in the centre and it is believed that no one but the Kumari can only see outside this window. This KumariJhya was established with tantric rituals on the occasion of Varshabandhan puja (annual worship) in Nepal Sambat 878 Ashwin (i.e. AD 1758) by king Jaya Prakash Malla and queen Dayalakshmi Devi. This window is again elegantly carved with 39 flying-horses at the bottom.Except the two AakhiJhyals and a set of three Sa Jhyals in the eastern façade, there are no other elaborate windows. The southern façade has simple windows.Lacking ornate woodwork and the western side has no windows as it is attached to SikhaMubaha.

Inside the KumariGhar is an open courtyard (or bahal) in the midst of which is a chaitya (locally called the Chiba Dya). The stone chaitya, as many other chaityas in the Nepal Mandal, is crafted with Pancha Buddhas or Five Buddhas. The bahal also contains the two Chakras one of which is carved with the tantric Kumari Yantra.In a typical Newar residential style, the KumariChhen can be distinguished as Chhidi (the ground floor), Maatan (the first floor), Chwata (the second floor) and the roof. Straight inside the bahal is a long passage wherein five Buddhas namely Vairochan Buddha, Amitabh Buddha, Amogh Siddhi Buddha, Akshyobhya Buddha and RatnaSambhav Buddha are established.Directly over this, at the second floor is another Sa Jhya from where the Living Goddess gives a short glimpse everyday to the devotees.Before stepping down into the bahal, there are two holes on either side of the walls which are worshipped as Nasadya (the god of dance and other arts) and Mahankal Bhairav especially in annual Varshabandhan. At the top floor is the grand throne of the living goddess. Set in a special room, the golden throne is carved with peacock as the seat (aasan). On the final day of Indra Jatra and in Dashain, devotees worship the Goddess Kumari seated on this throne in this room. Alongside this magnificence, terra cotta images carved at the plinth of the bahal too bear artistic excellence. However, the story to those carvings has not been worked out.

The KumariGhar is the work of king jay Prakash Malla in 1757AD. It is typically based on Newari architecture. It was renovated in 1966AD. No modern materials were used while rebuilding the Temple. The Interior portion of the kumari Ghar is still cracked due to devastating earthquake.But the government hasn’t pay attention to this problem which is bad aspect of the government. The government pays 40000 per month for the food,education and other activities of the Kumari. The temple is only painited or rebuilt externally on in Kumari jatra.

Profile by Udgam Lohani, Student, Himalaya College of Engineering

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