“No photographs” cried one of the men who had ushered us inside the Kumari Ghar at Kathmandu Durbar Square.
A hush fell over, as Kumari or the Living-Goddess appeared from an ornate-wooden- central-bay window that faced the entrance. She was in her red -regalia. Her right palm was facing us in Abhayamudra and her eyes were emotionless. It was a surprise, as till that time I had not realised that only the Kumari of Kathmandu took visitors. I have seen that many photographers have taken a shot of Kumari, but I am aware that the privilege came at a high premium.
A Toran at Kumari Ghar Depicting Goddess Durga
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A Flight of Fantasy
Morning light streaked through the apex of Dattatreya temple. Slurping hot, sugary tea, I sat on a corner of Dattatreya Square, watching a dog that was stuck in its puppy hood – it ran amidst a flock of pigeons trying to catch the fluttering birds.
Meanwhile, in rest of Bhaktapur, devout women worshipped flat stones that laid in front of their houses with flowers and food. These offerings were a favourite with local fauna like feral pigeons, stray poultry and dogs.
“The stones represent Kul Devata (family deities)”, one shopkeeper had explained.
Women also placed offerings at various street corners and places… those might have been statues of Gods that fell during the 1934 earthquake. Durbar Square or Palace Square had lost a third of its monuments and buildings in the same earthquake.
Durbar square housed the palace of Malla Kings. The palace had been converted to a museum and it housed Taleju Temple (Goddess Durga) and Kumari Chowk (Living Goddess’ residence). The square became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.