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Kumari Puja


by jnAnakunjastha mahAmahopAdhyAya shrI gopInAtha kavirAja

The mahAkAla saMhitA states that the best way of propitiating shiva is to worship kumArI (virgin) and to feed her. The kaulas are to worship her in the night and the smArtas in the afternoon. The virgin should be well-bathed, well-draped in a piece of multi-colored cloth and well-decorated. She must be one whose heart has not yet been even touched by passion. She must be of 7, 8 or 9 years of age, of fair complexion, of noble birth, and with her parents living. She must not be deformed in body, with protruding teeth or betrothed to anybody (vAgdattA).

In the yAmaLa, a virgin is described to be of three kinds: parA, aparA and parAparA. The Virgin was the sole existence before the creation of the universe and is therefore known by the name of AdyA shakti or Primal Energy.

Names of the kumArI from the 1st to the 16th years are as given below:

1. sandhyA
2. sarasvatI
3. tridhAmUrti
4. kAlikA
5. subhagA
6. umA
7. mAlinI
8. kubjikA
9. kAlasaMgharShA
10. aparAjitA
11. rudrANI
12. bhairavI
13. mahAlakShmI
14. kulanAyikA
15. kShetraj~nA
16. chaNDikA

As for the mode of her worship, the virgin is to be conducted respectfully with music and entertainments to the door of the hall of worship. The number of virgins worshipped should be an odd number, either 5, 7 or 9 or even 11. Of these, the brightest is to be considered as the primary one (mukhyA), but if many maidens are not available, only one can be worshipped. In kAmya and naimittika pUjas, only one is need, while in the autumnal worship, a large number is a necessity. They are to be kept standing in a row with their eyes cast down. The worshipper is to regard the mukhyA as identical with the Goddess herself, and go through the process of prANAyAma, bhUtApasAraNa, obeisance to guru and gaNesha and digbandhana. He is then to wash her feet, place the water on his head and rub her feet with the corner of his own wearing garment. With unbroken rice (akShata), he should then perform the ceremony for removing the obstacles (vignotsAraNa). The ceremonies for expelling the evil influence have to be performed again, the reason being that many minor gods and goddesses enter the hall of worship together with the kumArI and very often they create disturbances. The worshipper has to take with his left hand the right hand of the maiden, step forth with his right foot planted first on the ground and lead the line of the maidens on into the hall, uttering various hymns in her praise such as:

tvamamba jagatAmAdye jagadAdhArarUpiNi etc.

The worship of the mukhyA is enough to please the rest. This is followed by an act of offering to the minor gods. Then follows the mukArInyAsa. The names of the eighteen kumArikAs are uttered by means of specific mudrAs to perform the nyAsa:

1. mahAchaNDayogIshvarI
2. siddhikarAlI
3. siddhivikarAlI
4. mahAkaumArI
5. vajrakapAlinI
6. muNDamAlinI
7. aTTahAsinI
8. chaNDakapAlinI
9. kAlachakreshvarI
10. guhyakAlI
11. kAtyAyanI
12. kAmAkhyA
13. chAmuNDA
14. siddhilakShmI
15. kubjikA
16. mAtangI
17. chaNDeshvarI
18. kumArI

[Note: kavirAj-ji lists the eighteen names relevant to kAlI kula. The kumarI nyAsa differs in the case of shrI kula and one should refer to sundarI tantra for details].

The worship of nine goddesses viz. shuddhA, kAlikA, lalitA, mAlinI, vasundharA, sarasvatI, ramA, gaurI and durgA and two gods viz. vaTuka, a boy of 5 years and gaNesha of 9 years are enjoined. So also of eight bhairvas, asitAnga, ruru, chaNDa, krodha, unmatta, kApAli, bhIShaNa and saMhAra bhairavas and of eight devis viz. mahAmAyA, kAlarAtri, sarvamangaLA, DamarukA, rAjarAjeshvarI, sampatpradA, bhagavatI and kumArI. The six shaktis attendant on these devIs are: anagakusumA, manmathA, madanA, kusumAturA, madanAturA and shishirA.

The worship of mukhyA being over, the remaining maidens should next be attended to. They should be requested to eat the food offered to them in silence. No sound of any instrument should be made to disturb them at their meals. The worshipper should sing in their praise, with folded hands, a hymn called kumArI stotra (sixteen verses in anuShTup metre). After they have taken the naivedya, they should be served with betels in due form. This is followed by the offering of dakShiNA and finally the ceremony of visarjana. The leaving of their dishes should be given to jackals or buried in the earth.

The worship of the virgin is recommended during the navarAtra festival for nine days in succession. The names of the nine durgAs to be worshipped on the nine nights are: hR^illekhA, gaganA, raktA, mahocChuShmA, karALikA, icChA, jnAnadurgA, kriyA and durgA.

There is a remarkable expression regarding the worship of kumArI:

kumAriM na spR^ishedeva bhAvayuktena chetasA|
anyathA mR^ityumAyAti no cheddevI parA~NmukhI ||