Shakti (Divine Energy) not associated with any Deities is Kumari. An example of such a Deity is Kanyakumari. Since Adimaya creates merely with a sankalpa (Resolve), She is referred to as a kumari (A virgin girl). Energy in the form of a virgin is unmanifest. Once the energy manifests, its power begins to decrease.
Substances such as flowers, floral garlands, grass, leaves, bark of trees, cotton thread, turmeric, shendur (An orange powder), kumkum etc. play an important role in the ritualistic worship of this Devi. Objects which are dear to young girls are offered unto Her.
‘A twelve year old unmarried girl is referred to as a kumari. Her characteristics as described in the Smrutis are –
Meaning : A female child is called Gouri at the age of eight, kanya (Girl) at the age of ten and kumari (Virgin) at the age of twelve.
In earlier times, some women remained unmarried throughout their lives. According to the text Ashtadhyayi, they were called kumaris (Virgins) even as adults and in old age, for example – Vruddhakumari, Jaratkumari. (Ashtadhyayi, Adhyaya 6,Pad 2, Sutra 95)
The concept of virginity is very beautiful. It expresses the delicateness of virginity and the ability of the feminine gender to procreate. Pure virginity is always eager to blossom, to merge with a personage more evolved than itself. Tulsi plant symbolises virginity. It is believed that she is eager to merge into the Divine personage, Balkrishna.
1. Worship of the kumari
During the festival of Navaratri, it is customary to offer a meal everyday to either one virgin girl, symbolising the kumari, or one on the first day, two on the second and soon in ascending order till nine kumaris on the ninth day. The girl invited should be between two and ten years of age and should belong to the same varna (Class) as the host. It is said that she should be flawless, healthy and without deformity. Ritualistic worship of the kumaris is performed after worship of the Devi. First, the Deity is invoked with the following mantra –
Meaning : I invoke the kumari who is of the nature of mantras and alphabets, has the form of Lakshmi, who takes the form of Matrukas and is Devi Navadurga Herself.
The kumari’s feet are first washed and she is made to sit on a chourang (A decorated square stool). After application of gandha (Sandalwood paste), she is gifted a long skirt and a blouse and is garlanded with flowers. She is offered a mixture of sugar, honey, milk, ghee and curd (These five together are known as panchamrut) and is served delicious food. Finally, obeisance is paid to her.
In the Shakti sect, special importance is attached to the ritualistic worship of a kumari. (This is known as Kumari puja).