For centuries, life in three ancient kingdoms in Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur – had revolved around their respective royal and religious centers: Durbar Square. These kingdoms had since become cities, and each of their squares a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The squares were not kept at arm’s length from the public. No velvet rope, only an entrance fee for foreign visitors. Nepal citizens (I heard they prefered this term over “locals”) went about their daily life in and around ancient temples, palaces, courtyards, altars, and marketplaces in these squares that remained as vibrant today as they may have been in 15th-century Malla Dynasty.
Today I saw the highest point on earth and met a living goddess. Just your regular day in Nepal.
So went my Facebook status. Nepal occupied not only a sliver of land high above the rest of the earth, but also the earthbound dwellings of deities. Mysticism pervaded the rarefied air in this Himalayan kingdom, where ancient idols at street corners had been smoothed by centuries of veneration, enduring and unchanging through time that seemed to have stalled.
Bhuwan, our guide, had acquainted us with Hindu gods in frozen stances. For a change, he led us weaving through the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex in Kathmandu to behold a flesh-and-blood deity called the Kumari Devi, or simply the Kumari, Nepali for the Living Goddess. She was the incarnation of Taleju (aka Durga), the goddess wife of Shiva, who embodied the victory of good over evil, in a vessel of purity – a pre-menstrual virgin.