From living goddess to former Kumari & schoolgirl

ari Samita Bajracharya,with a photograph of her when she was a goddess, Nepal
Living Goddess of Nepal
A lot has changed since my last visit with the living goddess

A return visit to my Living Goddess friend

If you’ve not read about my previous visits to the Kumari living goddess in Nepal I encourage you to do so before reading here. It’s a fascinating journey that will take you from my initial search right up to becoming friends with the Kumari and her family. It will also give you some insight into what you are about to read.

I’ve held back on publishing this since the beginning for several reasons. Primarily because of the amount of publicity the Kumari have got since I first published about meeting with the Kumari several years ago. Big media jumped on the band wagon and I want to let recent events settle before continuing.

I’ve gotten to know the family quite well and know what the pressures of “fame” or “curiosity” from the outside world can do to a genuinely wonderful family.

Now with the dust settled let me take you back a while, sharing with you one of several meetings with the goddess before she reverted back to being a twelve-year-old girl and meeting up with her again in totally difference circumstances.

Visiting the Kumari once more

Kumari in ceremonial attire
Did the lavishes of being a goddess change Samita?

It had been a while since I’d last seen Samita Bajracharya and her family in Patan, Nepal.

I’d held off from casual visits as I hoped to be spending a longer time in Patan on my Nepal guidebooks near the Mahaboudha Temple. Of course with my lifestyle this kept getting postponed for week after week after month.

Part of the reason I delayed things was also due to being worried that things might have changed in the Kumari household. Since I’d last been there Samita and her family had become well-known across the world.

  • Would this fame have changed them from the lovely family I’d grown to know before?
  • Would Samita have grown up to be spoilt?

It was, for me, safer to live with the good memories than discover something I was afraid might happen

Meanwhile that little red bag I’d bought her in Bangkok was sitting in a storage box in Kathmandu getting dusty. It made me feel safe knowing it was there, unwrapped and undelivered.

Red is an important color in Nepal. It’s a fabled Newari color in clothing and also the color of the popular tikka. It’s also the color of the Kumari’s ceremonial dress. Other than that, well what else do you buy a living goddess for a gift?’

I arrived at the Kumari courtyard filled with those old memories and holding a little red bag. I was also, to be honest, holding a lot of anxiety. I’d finally taken a break from writing the books and wanted to enjoy a little bit of the country rather than to document everything. So I rang the doorbell.

Ratnakar Mahavihar (Patan Kumari Residence )
Ratnakar Mahavihar otherwise known as the Patan Kumari Residence

An older round face immediately appeared at the doorway. Samita’s mother, Shova. She broke into a huge smile when she recognized me. If it wasn’t for Nepali custom I’m sure there was a big hug there too.

Shova, the Kumari's mother
Shova, the Kumari’s mother

Upstairs to the Living Goddess

Shoes off, we went upstairs to the living room chatting in broken English about our past meeting and what’s happened since. In the living room I heard the patter of footsteps from the floor above.

I recognized them but was still unsure. They raced over to the top of the stairs. A favorite place the world over for young children to sit and listen to adults talking below.

In the small living room Shova and I kept getting stuck for words as our individual linguistic skills failed a more in-depth conversation. Instead we both settled on looking through photos on my phone of where I’d been since last we met.

With the photos done I turned to Shova and asked, “So, is Samita around?”

“Of course!” replied Shova looking awkwardly towards the stairs.

I laughed while turning my back to the stairs and covering my eyes.”No problem, I’m not looking!”

There were hushed uncertain whispers. A rustle of clothing. More pattering of little feet. A mother urging speed and with that a breeze flew by and into the Kumari throne room.

“Okay!” said Shova.

I turned and nodded with a smile at our impromptu formal protocol of not ever being allowed to see a Kumari’s feet touch the ground. Shova was smiling back and pointed the way I knew all too well.

Entering the Kumari throne room

To call the twelve by sixteen foot room a throne room was a little over ambitious. But this is Nepal, a small country, which contains some of the more wonderful and unique things on earth.

Included in this is the Kumari legend. There on her little throne was the young girl I’d met years ago soon after the goddess Taleju (Durga) had chosen her and she’d become the Kumari.

Samita had grown. Wearing a red golden dress she looked taller and a little older.

She sat staring straight ahead and emotionless as true Kumari protocol dictates.

Patan Kumari, Samita Bajracharya
Patan Kumari, Samita Bajracharya

My mind raced in wonder if she had changed from sweet child to spoilt child with all the attention over the past few years. Did that loving family I befriended years ago hold on to the virtues that made them so special to me? Did they help Samita deal with all this pressure and attention over the years.

“Hey Samita … ” I blurted, “I mean Kumari Goddess. Remember me? The guy who talked too much last time.”

Silence. She stared ahead at a familiar point on the wall. I moved forward to the blessing area and knelt down.

“I’m back in Nepal and wanted to visit you and your family again. I hope that’s okay?”

Silence. The Kumari with those big brown eyes like that of a fawn stared ahead without so much as a hint of emotion.

Kumari staring straight ahead with no emotion
The Kumari stared straight ahead with no emotion

I babbled on about my previous visit and recalled my joke about falling off the chair.

The Kumari looked down at the ground.

I continued on about the rigors of finding her the right gift and not being sure if she liked red.

“I figured the goddess likes red, but I’m not sure if Samita likes red. Maybe you’re sick of red. Everything you’ve had has been red for years. So maybe you’d preferred pink! Or green or …”

The Kumari looked up, down and then up again as if wondering when I’d stop babbling.

“Oh wait,” I fired off. “I can’t remember! Do you understand English? You must! I’m sure you can. Your brother can. I think you teach your brother things too right?”


“Nuts, I forgot, you can’t answer.”

Samita looked up again, then down. Seemingly a little awkward at my insistent babbling. At least somethings never change.

I bent over and placed the handbag by her feet.

“I hope you like it.”

After receiving my blessing I wished her the best and hoped we’d meet again before I left Nepal.

Chilling with the Goddesses brother

Sabin, a Nepalese teenager plays the Draymin
Samita’s brother Sabin plays the Draymin for me

Outside in the living room Samita’s mother had been joined by her son, Sabin. He’d grown too. Now in his late teens he was on his way to work but afforded me some time to sit and chat to catch up on things.

Samita had been teaching him to play the Dramyin (traditional Nepali guitar). He played me a tune before apologizing that he was late for work.

I walked him out. Along the way he showed me some off the beaten path places in Patan. Something I truly appreciated.

It’s hard to fathom that even a goddesses brother needs to work. The Kumari gets a small living allowance from the Government. It’s more a token than anything and certainly not enough to live on. So her brother and father work regular jobs just like everyone else despite their status in the Bajracharya family.

I asked of them about the tour groups led by some despicable travel company who withheld funds from the family on visits. They were taken care of. Guides were told to stay outside. The shock that companies were charging tourists to visit had not been lost on me when I saw the ads in Kathmandu the previous year.

I felt a sense of relief that fame had not changed this lovely family over the past few years. They were still a force of togetherness. Yes, I couldn’t tell from my short visit with Samita whether she was doing as well. But such is her life as a living goddess.

I left the Bajracharya family house with another promise – I’d be back.

A new Patan Kumari

So we fast forward a little to April 2014. I was having lunch in Pokhara while reading a national newspaper when a short headline in the culture section jumped out.

New Kumari in Patan

Former Kumari of Patan
Samita was no longer the Kumari

Samita Bajracharya had menstruated and was no longer Kumari. There was now a new Kumari.

With no hesitation, I was on a bus to Kathmandu and to Patan.

My mind was racing with so much. Would the family still be in the Kumari courtyard? They said it was their family home. But it’s Nepal and communication is not always exact.

My worst fear was that they were gone. Moved to a new home far off in the suburbs.

I met with a taxi man I knew in Kathmandu and hired him for the day. He spoke good English and I explained the situation. He wasn’t Newari and so wasn’t that interested in the Kumari. But, he’d help in my search for her if they’d moved.

Meeting a former Kumari living goddess

I entered the Kumari courtyard. Immediately looking over to the left where the Bajracharya family had lived. The “Kumari Goddess” sign was gone. It was no more than a normal Newari door now. Closer, there was another doorway with the sign over it. It marked the new Kumari goddess residence.

I took a deep breath and walked over to the old doorway. Memories came flooding back. So much had changed.

The goddess was gone but was the family still there?

Reaching up to ring the doorbell a familiar face appeared at the doorway.

Shova broke into a huge smile and I reached out with both hands clenched tightly.

“Yes! You’re still here!”

Samita as a former Kumari
Samita as a former Kumari … or rather an ordinary school girl

Shova put her hands to her face and called out something in Newari before urging me inside and over to a chair to remove my shoes.

My back to the inner house I had started to explain about being worried they had moved when a young voice greeted me from behind.

“Hey there!”

I spun around and there was Samita smiling back at me as she emerged from another room.


She smiled, “What’s up?”

“So you remember me?” I said awkwardly. Totally unsure if a former Kumari was able to remember who she met when she was a goddess. Yes, I felt stupid asking this but … well. Such is life when you are friends with a goddess or rather a former Kumari.

“Of course,” she shrugged with a confused typical teenage like dismissal.

I laughed, as did her mother.

Catching up with Samita and her family

It was a Saturday so Samita’s brother and father, Kulratna, were also there. We sat down in the living room and caught up on recent events. I really had no clue what happens after the goddess leaves someone and even if they were allowed to talk about it. My questions felt redundant. But still I asked.

Yes, Samita remembers everything from when she was a Kumari. No, they did not have to move as this is indeed the family home. Yes, Samita remembers me nearly falling off a chair years ago when I visited with friends. No, she wouldn’t answer if she thought it was funny.

“What did you think I was doing?”

Samita hesitated, “I think … Well, I thought you were a bit silly … or maybe stupid.”

We all broke out laughing.

The barriers were broken and we relaxed into causal chat.

A regular Newari family filled with laughs and friendship

Laughing with the former Kumari
A man in short shorts makes the family laugh – he used to be Samita’s escort when she was a Kumari

During our chat we were interrupted by a tall older man in shorts. The former Kumari and her mother broke out into hysterical laughter. This went on for quite some time. The man looked a little funny in short shorts but I didn’t quite “get it”.

Samita explained, “He’s the man who carried me when I was Kumari. We’ve never seen his legs before.” She paused to break out into hysterics again, “He’s got such skinny legs!”

Indeed, these are the days following years of high protocol and rituals. Today was one more drop in protocol as the man who looked after the goddess for so many years appeared so causally in their house.

Everything had changed. It was a different world now.

Laughing with the former Kumari
Seeing the family together laughing like this is something that would never have happened when Samita was a Kumari

I will leave out most of the banter. The most important thing was learning that Samita is doing really well. She can now leave the house on her own will. But as a twelve-year old still asks for her mother’s permission. She walks to school with her school mates and enjoys English and history. They talk about … Well, they talk about what just about every other school girl her age in Nepal talks about.

She’s become a renown musician and Dramyin player. The next night she was taking part in her first musical performance in Patan. Everyone was preparing. Everyone was proud and more importantly happy.

Yes, Samita has emerged from her time as a Kumari as a regular Nepali school girl.

Her time as a Kumari is one she feels honored being a part of. She’s friends with the current Kumari. I’m showed a family treasure that explains to me so much about the Kumari I didn’t know before. I feel privileged once again to know such lovely people.

Photography lessons and more laughs

One of the big changes I talked with the family about were the amount of photographs that now lined the wall compared to when I first arrived years beforehand when the wall was bare.

“I remember you bringing photographs,”said Samita.

No one had ever given the family photographs of themselves or Samita before. At least this had also changed.

“And the doll!” Shova blurted. “It’s here in the bedroom.

And so it was. The little doll I’d searched Kathmandu for years ago. I smiled and offered to show them how to take their own photographs with my camera.

Samita is full of confidence for a twelve-year old and takes my camera.

Samita is not only a talented musician but also a talented aspiring photographer using her lovely mother to pose for this photograph

I show her where to press and how to look through the view finder. She picks it up immediately along with the focus ring and takes a lovely photograph of her mother. Her brother Sabin was at work that day.

There was no better time for a family portrait.

Shova, Samita and Kulratna lined up under the new photographs on the wall. Rigid. We laughed about how serious they looked.

“Let’s make this a beautiful photo of smiles for a new wall!”

They smiled. So we joked a little more before we all erupted into laughter about the man in short shorts of all things!

GIF of the Bajracharya family
GIF animation of the Bajracharya family enjoying themselves as we laugh together (hence the shaky camera!)

Coming full circle with the Kumari

I realized that in my rush I did not bring a gift with me this time. It wasn’t mandatory to do so. But I’m of the opinion if you visit friends you don’t see so often it’s nice to do so. However in my rush to get here I’d forgotten. So I left to get some food to bring back.

The lovely thing about the Bajracharya’s is that they don’t expect anything. I arrived with snacks and we all sat round laughing for a while longer. A neighbor called around with a newborn baby. Everyone cooed and fawned over it.

I exchanged email addresses and ubiquitous Facebook details with the family to stay in touch. I promised to write one more article and here it is.

Since then we’ve met more frequently and stay in touch no matter where we all are just as friends would. Today another Kumari is resident in the Baha. Soon another will come again. But, in this case a friendship has stayed.

It’s been an amazing experience to come full circle with both the Kumari living goddess legend, Samita and her family.

Photograph of the Kumari and former Kumari
The Kumari: then and now

I left knowing that this was indeed a happy family. A happy home.

I left no longer knowing a living goddess.

The former Kumari family
Shova, Samita and Kulratna Bajracharya: a lovely family

Today I’m honored to be friends with the former Kumari Samita Bajracharya and her entire wonderful family. We’ve stayed friends ever since and I’ve written about it in my guidebook to Nepal.

Since this story was first published many from the media have tried to copy it. Sadly, as they try to rewrite it, they leave out many essential parts about the Kumari. Further, several Nepali travel agents try to sell tours to see the Kumari. Please do not partake in these tours no matter how “community” focused these companies say the are. They are simply cheating the Kumari families by only offering token payments. As a tourist, you do not need a tour to visit a Kumari. Read on to find out how – or download my guidebook to Nepal for full details.

Read the full series here:

Part 1: In Search of the Kumari

Part 2: Meeting a Living Goddess: the Kumari

Part 3: Samita Bajracharya the Little Girl who became a Kumari Living Goddess

Part 4 (current): From living goddess to former Kumari & schoolgirl

Information: Facts on The Kumari of Nepal

Nepal is an amazing place:

From the trekking in the Himalayas, experiencing old world cities like Kathmandu, Patan or Bhaktapur to jungle safari’s with elephants and rhinos to meeting a living goddess. To learn how to experience this great country check out my travel guides to Nepal.

Get my Guidebook to Nepal & discover more than anyone else!

Looking for more insider tips and information like this? Get the most up-to-date, popular and dedicated guidebook to Nepal in the world. Over 617 pages & 984+ photographs of every temple listed, daily guides on all the treks listed and so much more.

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27 Replies to “From living goddess to former Kumari & schoolgirl”

  1. Lovely follow up. So nice to see her blossom into a young lady like this.

  2. Just read through the series. Excellent work Dave. Such a personal story that transcends an interesting cultural anomaly.

  3. Such an inspirational story. Really like how you followed through with this. Thank you!

  4. Great read and an amazing follow-up. So good to hear she is doing great. Lovely to read that her family was so supportive of her.

  5. Dave, this is just such an incredibly well covered story! I feel truly privileged to discover this blog years ago even if it was just for the Kumari series alone. I can feel a lot of time, patience, respect, curiosity, perseverance, research, empathy and last but not least your excellent writing skills all came together to bring the Kumari story to the readers. Your story telling accompanied by captivating pictures brings me right in.
    What an honor it is to be a living goddess friend.

    The only thing which confused me was when you mentioned “…I first published about meeting with Samita several years ago…” while I was under impression it only came out last year? Also the published date for the first article says January 21st, 2013

    1. Hi Petr,

      Thank you for your kind and flattering words. I’m very glad to have you reading along over the years and it means a lot to me to know you are still out there reading along. It really does, so thank you too.

      Sorry about the confusion on dates. I first met the Kumari (Samita) back in 2011 and spent a lot of time agonizing whether to even publish such an account. Previously the Bhaktapur Kumari was removed as Kumari due to breaking protocol. This is something I did not wish to happen during my visits or my story.

      I spoke with many people in the Kathmandu Valley about what I wanted, should, or should not write or publish. Indeed I rewrote several versions before finally publishing in January 2013.

      As you could tell from the stories it became more than just about the Kumari for me. It was about the family that they were and are. I did not want to be a disruption to them like what had previously happened. At the end of the last story “The little girl who became a Kumari living goddess” I even went so far as to write a statement that the Kumari did not break protocol.

      At the end of the day, I was very close to not publishing it all. Hindsight is great and everyone involved is glad that I did. But at the time it was something I did not take lightly.

      Likewise on this return trip you would have noticed I mentioned a lot of anxiety about any change in the household. From not being well known to becoming well known. I feel a part of that and I’m so dearly glad that the family has remained as lovely as they were when I first met them.

      I hope this clears up your query and if there’s anything else feel free to ask.

      1. Thanks for the all-explaining answer. It wasn’t obvious from the articles that you first met Samita waaay before you published the first article here. I can understand and appreciate your hesitation to publish the story as it’s such a sensitive topic and you worked hard on this journey and while building relationship with the family.
        Good to learn some ‘background’ story to the series as well indeed, thanks for sharing.

  6. It’s been an very interesting morning reading through these posts. Do you have any plans to write about the current Kumari?

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed this series Dave. Never mind big media, your personal story touches this far more than facts and box lights! Keep going mate. Following you all the way.

  8. Beautiful post Dave. Really enjoyed reading all of them. I read some of the “other” posts you mentioned before too. Hand’s down you’ve written something far more enjoyable. The fact you’ve taken the time to get to know the family speaks volumes.

  9. Hi Dave,

    I first got the news from you back in Apr14 and was half expecting you would write about it but you were pretty reserved and quiet about the transition. After a series of media’s interview and video of her & family been released, together with the previous Kumari before Samita, I knew there must be something which hold you back, must be that “keep the best for last” thingy :)

    You know when I said if Samita and family would “entertain” me if I pay them a visit. “Entertain” means they would open the door and accept to meet a stranger like me. It’s all due to the reasons you stated – fame, spoiled, stardom ;) So we shared the same worries except you’re already a good friend of the family.

    You know how I have followed through every episode of the Kumari, chased you when you’re taking too long for the new series. It’s pleasant surprise to finally read the Part II and I would love to see random update of your friendship with them. They seem to make our Dave feeling happy and acting like a child, haha!!

    Ps: Samita looks wonderful; the suit that her mom wore wasn’t ugly & shining okay!!! :)

    1. Hi Mandy,

      Well now you know why I didn’t write about it back in April. As much as “breaking news” is fashionable these days I know the family too well for a media blitz to put too much pressure on them.

      I’m sure the family will open their door to you. Conversation might be minimal though due to a lack of Nepalese/English. Samita will also be at school weekdays. You’ll still be able to visit the new Kumari though! Next door. Check the my guide book to Patan for more ;)

      Glad to finally bring the “final” chapter to this story out at last. And glad you liked it. It’s not a suit by the way, it’s a Sari. Or simply a dress. You’ll be fine in getting one of these made in Pokhara. Just order before your trek!

  10. Dave,

    I have visited Nepal during this May, and I got much useful travel information from your articles about Nepal. I have to admit that sometimes your words make me burst out laughing. You have some kind of humor and I really enjoy reading them. I read your travel guide again and again before starting my journey to Nepal, and really, thank you Dave, they did help a lot.
    And about the Kumari, the first sight when I saw her, I just felt that she, an ordinary little girl approaching the window, showing her face to the curiosities. And at that short half a minute’s moment, watching the confusing face of tourists, I was just thinking what a …… WEIRD scene!
    Maybe I have been too superficial to think like that. After that I once spent a whole day sitting in front of the Kumari Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square, looking at the expressions on the coming out tourists’ face after their “pilgrimage” to the Kumari. I forgot the most feelings of visitors at that moment. But for me, everything there was just inexplicable, but still, interesting.
    Anyway, your documentary work about Kumari has given me a new learning about this cultural knowledge of Nepal. And I’m so glad that Samita is living in such a happiness family and ordinary but still beautiful(can I say that)life now. I love her smile, especially her flash grinning in your GIF animation picture of her family. Good for her.
    And thank you for all of your words, Dave.
    Sorry for my megillah and my poor English grammar.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for sharing your experiences visiting the Kumari in Kathmandu, I really appreciate it. You seemed to have studied and gained a great insight into not just the Kumari but also the people who visit here. But those in the know and those just visiting. It was great to great about your time there.

      I’m really glad to hear my article about Nepal helped you out on your visit there. And I really hope you had a great time in Nepal!

      1. Thanks for your reply.
        I’m thinking of back to Nepal again for another trek, maybe still need your travel guide for reference in the future. :)

        erm… may I ask you a question?
        I wonder how do you choose a destination to start your journey.
        Because I’m currently staying in Cambodia, and I thought this country is a hot traveling point for any backpacker, but I didn’t see your travel guide about Cambodia but Thailand when I tried to search some information.

        Weird question, I hope this is no offend, please feel free to reply it or not.
        Anyway, good luck to your next journey(whenever you start) :)

  11. Dave, you can’t imagine how grateful I am to you for having taken us to visit a living goddess with you! Thanks for sharing this post, I’ve read all of it and it was so exciting, so inspiring, so emotional…! I can’t describe it, but thanks.

  12. Interesting sequence of events … you must feel special that you were on a first name basis with the earthly incarnation of a deity! :)

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