Kumari Bahal

sights / Squares & plazas

Kumari Bahal information

Location
Kathmandu , Nepal
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At the junction of Durbar and Basantapur Sqs, this red-brick, three-storey building is home to the Kumari, the girl who is selected to be the town’s living goddess until she reaches puberty and reverts to being a normal mortal. The goddess is regarded as a living symbol of devi - the Hindu concept of female spiritual energy. Inside the building is Kumari Chowk , a three-storey courtyard. It is enclosed by magnificently carved wooden balconies and windows, making it quite possibly the most beautiful courtyard in Nepal. Amazingly, the bahal escaped with only minor damage despite the devastation all around - a sign perhaps of the Kumari's benign influence.

The Kumari generally shows her face between 9am and 11am. Photographing the goddess is forbidden, but you are quite free to photograph the courtyard when she is not present. The Kumari went on strike in 2005, refusing to appear at her window for tourists, after authorities denied her guardians’ request for a 10% cut of Durbar Sq’s admission fees!

The building, in the style of the Buddhist vihara (monastic abodes) of the valley, was built in 1757 by Jaya Prakash Malla. The courtyard contains a miniature stupa carrying the symbols of Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Non-Hindus are not allowed to go beyond the courtyard.

The large yellow gate to the right of the Kumari Bahal conceals the huge chariot that transports the Kumari around the city during the annual Indra Jatra festival. Look for the huge wooden runners in front of the Kumari Bahal that are used to transport the chariot. The wood is painted at the tips and is considered sacred.