The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court

Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal

in Focaal
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Quebec letizia.chiara@uqam.ca
Restricted access

In 2005 a human rights petition at the Supreme Court challenged the tradition of living goddesses called Kumaris and, in particular, that of the former royal Kumari, who lives a sequestered ritual life until puberty, and who used to bless and legitimate the king once a year. The case went on while Nepal overthrew its king and was declared a secular state in 2007. When the judgment was pronounced in 2008, the goddess was still at her post and now blessed the president. This court case is taken to illustrate the directions and form that Nepali secularism is taking. It reveals a distinctive form of secularism where the state is involved in supporting and reforming religion. The religious tradition here is seen as an asset for the state, worthy of preserving, provided it makes way for social reforms in tune with the times. Despite being reduced in court to a child capable of being deprived of her rights, the political power of the goddess remains intact and her role for the nation is recognized in the verdict; both human and divine, the Kumari has been acknowledged under the now secular legal regime.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 128 128 19
Full Text Views 45 45 2
PDF Downloads 69 69 4