This is a unique Nepali tradition that is an amalgamation of Buddhism, Hinduism and indigenous Newari culture. A Kumari is selected from the Shakya clan of the Nepalese Newari community. The Kumari is revered and worshipped by Hindus and Nepali Buddhists all over Nepal.
A Kumari is believed to be the human incarnation of the Goddess Taleju or Durga until she menstruates after which her followers believe that that the Goddess leaves the body of the child. In Hindu mythology the supreme Goddess is believed to have manifested the entire cosmos out of her womb. She is then said to have declared that she resides in all living female beings in this world. Thus, this worship of the Kumari is to realize the potential divinity in every human being, mostly female. Young girls are chosen over grown up women for this ritual because of their inherent chastity and purity which are supposed to be representations of Goddess Durga.
It is believed that in the ancient days the Kings of Nepal used to be great devotees of Goddess Taleju. Pleased with their worship, Taleju would come to the palace of the kings, walk with them and even played fun gambling games with them. On one such night, enamored by the beauty of Goddess Taleju, the king made an advance towards her. His behavior startled her and she became enraged. She announced that the king and his family would lose her favor and she will return to the heavens. The king, now overcome with guilt and terror begged for forgiveness. The compassionate Goddess then made a provision of visiting and guiding the kingdom in the form of a young woman who would be a manifestation of herself. This made way for the Kumari tradition in Nepal. Today, the Kumari lives near the Palace complex which also has a beautiful Taleju temple.
Today, the Kumari system is an integral part of the Newar people (an ethnic community of Nepal). The process of choosing a Kumari is quite elaborate as more than one girl is chosen to be the Kumari. She has to fit the right category and is chosen by the priests who look for signs that hint at her divinity. Once the chosen girl completes the Tantric purification rites and crosses from the temple on a white cloth to the Kumari Ghar to assume her throne, her life takes on an entirely new character. She becomes a part of diverse ceremonies which are Hindu as well as Buddhist in nature. This is a unique system as the Kumari is considered a Hindu Goddess but is chosen from a sect that follows the Buddhist religion. She will leave her palace only on ceremonial occasions. Her family will visit her rarely, and then only in a formal capacity. Her playmates will be drawn from a narrow pool of Newari children from her caste, usually the children of her caretakers. She will always be dressed in red, wear her hair in a topknot and have her forehead painted as a symbol of her special powers of insight.