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Protection, power and politics : an iconographic study of Kumārī Bāhā Mandala in Kathmandu
Glowski, Janice M.

2002, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, History of Art.

The subject of this study, the royal (rāj) Kumārī's home, or chem, inBasantapur Tole, Kathmandu City is the largest and most patronized of the extant
Kumārī residences. Also known as Kumārī Bāhā, this three-storey, open courtyard,
quadrangular brick and wooden structure was established by King Jayaprakāśa
Malla in C.E. 1757. Kumārī Bāhā is by far the most well preserved and
iconographically articulated of the Kumārī chem, and it houses one of the most
important deities in the Kathmandu Valley—the goddess Kumārī. However, the
monument has received only cursory attention from scholars. Kumārī Bāhā 's
excellent physical condition and important structural relationship to other Newar
monuments in the Valley make it an important primary resource for
contextualizing Kumārī within the Kathmandu Valley's broader socio-religious

This study analyzes Kumārī Bāhā 's major iconographic features and
interprets them within the context of Nepal's history, sacred histories, and
socio-religious practices. The monument's form, function, and iconography are
also compared with that of other Kumārī chem, Newar Buddhist monasteries (i.e.
bāhās), and temples and shrines dedicated to other important goddesses in Kathmandu Valley. Other visual culture related to the
goddess Kumārī, such as her jewelry and clothing, ritual implements used during
Kumārī worship, and offerings made by devotees are also examined for their
significance to Kumārī worship.

This study provides the first contextual study of Kumārī Bāhā's iconography
and suggests that the monument's art articulates numerous layers of mandalic
patterns, some of which are created by the so-called "mandalic goddesses," the
Astamātrkā (eight little mothers) and the Navadurgā (nine durgās). The specific
mandalas articulated by Kumārī Bāhā's iconographic program include the
Cakrasamvara/Vajravārāhī Mandala, the Guhyasamāja Mandala, Dharmadhātu
Mandala, a Durgā Mandala, and possibly a Śri Yantra. Further, aspects of the
iconographic program articulate aspects of the Kathmandu Valley's sacred creation
story and define the monument as a microcosm of the Kathmandu Valley, which
many Newars conceive to be a self-manifested Cakrasamvara/Vajravārāhī
Mandala. Through the ubiquitous goddess and other imagery, the presence of the
great goddesses Taleju, Vajrayoginī, Durgā, Mahālaksmī, Kālī, and Guhyeśvarī are
also implied at the Kumari Bāhā.

This study's findings suggest that Kumārī Bāhā can be read as a
multi-sectarian monument that incorporates deities worshiped by the śivamārgī,
buddhamārgī, and visnumārgī, alike, and the tradition of goddess worship, or
Śakta, is the rubric that unifies these distinctive, but noniii
exclusive, religious traditions and their imagery. An examination of historical
documents and Kumārī Baha, itself, suggests that the impetus for Kumārī Baha's
construction was a dramatic attempt on the part of Jayaprakaśa Malla to protect his kingdom, what is now roughly Kathmandu City, from the onslaught of the Gorkha
dynasty, to harness the power of the goddess (śakti) by building Kumārī Baha in
the center of his kingdom, and to legitimize his reign by enshrining the goddess
Kumārī in the monument. Despite his efforts, the Gorkha's eventually overthrew
the Malla dynasty and, with the blessings and legitimization of the state protective
goddess, Kumārī, unified the country under the Shah kings. Finally, this study
suggests that, given Jayaprakaśa Malla's objective to harness the multiple
expressions and power of śakti as it manifests throughout the Valley, his only real
option was to propitiate the goddess Kumārī, since she is conceived as the
embodiment of absolute creative potential and, therefore, embodies the creative
potential of the Valley's most powerful goddesses—Taleju, Vajrayoginī, Durgā,
Mahālaksmī, Kālī, and Guhyeśvarī.

Susan L. Huntington (Advisor)
John C. Huntington (Committee Member)
Howard Crane (Committee Member)
Thomas Kasulis (Committee Member)
425 p.

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Glowski, J. (2002). Protection, power and politics : an iconographic study of Kumārī Bāhā Mandala in Kathmandu. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

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Glowski, Janice. "Protection, power and politics : an iconographic study of Kumārī Bāhā Mandala in Kathmandu." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2002. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 26 May 2018.

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Glowski, Janice "Protection, power and politics : an iconographic study of Kumārī Bāhā Mandala in Kathmandu." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2002.


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