All Stories, Fantasy, General Fiction

The Kumari by Naga Vydyanathan

A brightly hued rag covered Kanmani’s eyes as she hopped daintily over the grid of numbered squares drawn hurriedly on the stone floor. “Right-a?” she asked, pausing on one leg. “Right-u”, came the response, confirming that Kanmani was within the boundaries of a square. This “Right-a/Right-u” exchange continued a few more times, until Kanmani stepped on a line and lost her chance. It was Kaveri’s turn now. Kaveri removed Kanmani’s blindfold, placed her gently on a chair nearby, and proceeded to tie the rag over her own eyes.  She ensured that her blindfold was loose enough to allow her to catch little peeks through the cracks. Closing her eyes tight, she hopped to what she thought was the first square and paused, balancing gingerly on one foot. “Right-a?”, she asked, opening her eyes wide enough to peek at the floor, checking whether her foot was within the square. “Right-u”, answered Kanmani. Kaveri smiled, closed her eyes and hopped to the next square. She loved playing this game called “Paandi”, with Kanmani.

There was a polite knock on the door. Removing her blindfold, Kaveri glanced at the quaint clock in her room. Her face showed a mix of disappointment and childish sulkiness, but only for a moment. Squaring her shoulders, she quickly put away Kanmani inside her doll bag, rubbed away the chalk marks on the floor and walked towards the door, a beatific smile on her face. It was, as if, a little, playful, carefree girl had morphed into a divine and blissful woman.  “Devi – I have come to help you prepare for the evening puja and darshan.”, said Kaatyaayani, the care-taker, as she glided into the room.


The Goddess, in all her splendor, looked on, as the chief priest raised the sacred lamp, making gentle circular motions in tandem with the booming bells. Her face shone with the dazzling brilliance of the light from the hundred and eight “deepams” on the lamp. The dual play of light and sounds lent an air of mysticism, transporting the staunch devotees to a state of spiritual bliss.

Kaveri stood next to the chief priest; her head bowed in prayer. Taking some flowers from the bowl nearby, she offered her salutations to the Goddess and proceeded to take her seat for the “darshan”. The devotees conglomerated around her – some, just content to soak in the tranquility she seemed to exude, others, impatient for her counsel, but all, intently watching her face for every single expression that flitted through it.  For Kumari Devi, as Kaveri was revered, was but an incarnation of the Goddess. And so, she would be worshipped until she reached her puberty.

Belying her age, Kaveri was in all ways, the perfect Goddess – demure in her stature, but majestic in her gait. As she patiently listened to the problems of her devotees, her empathy and confidence, gave those who came to her, a sense of solace and security. Just being in her presence, instilled hope and positivity, stoking the goodness in each. After all, aren’t Goddesses supposed to elevate the good and quash the evil within each of us?

“Devi Amma, Devi Amma, you are the only one who can save my daughter!”, shouted a visibly shaken Kaatyaayani, as she ran towards Kaveri, bearing her daughter in her arms. The young girl, who had lost consciousness, was bleeding profusely from the head.


Kaveri lay on her back, gazing at the sky above, clutching Kanmani tight to her bosom, squeezing out whatever comfort she could get. It was a beautiful, dark night, the clouds like blotches of mud on the satin indigo sky. The waters of the nearby river lapped gently against the banks, making a silent soothing noise, periodic and calming, like a mother’s lullaby.

This river bank near the temple, was like a mother’s lap to Kaveri. She sought refuge in it, whenever troubled, and tonight was one such night. Kaveri closed her eyes, trying to calm her mind, but her thoughts kept meandering to Kaatyaayani’s daughter. Thankfully, the village physician, who was summoned by Kaveri, was able to treat the deep gash on the girl’s head successfully and on time. Barring a garish scar, the girl would otherwise be alright. But this incident roused Kaveri’s deepest fears. “Kanmani – will I let down the people who believe in me?”.

Kaveri’s mind went back to the time when she was a little girl, just like all other little girls. But somewhere, as she grew up, she was perceived to be different – more sure, strong-willed, intuitive and empathetic, than her peers. She was thought to have paranormal abilities – a few happenings in her neighbourhood, where she rightly predicted the future, only strengthened this belief.  And before she knew it, she was elevated to the status of a goddess – the temple became her new abode, the devotees her family.

Though Kaveri had initially yearned for the secure comfort of her mother’s lap and the soothing familiarity of her home, she had also felt a deep satisfaction and joy in helping others. Her personality had two sides – a little girl and a Goddess, and she embraced both, with grace. However, there was always a guilty fear in her – was she worthy of her godly status? And today’s incident had brought it to the fore.

Kaveri’s mind was in a turmoil, weighed down by the unreasonable expectations of her devotees.  Feeling vulnerable, she yearned for her puberty, when she could be the little girl again, reunited with her family. But, it is not that I don’t want to help others in need, thought, an anguished Kaveri. The little girl and the Goddess were in a tussle. Hugging Kanmani tight, Kaveri finally managed to drift off to sleep.

Naga Vydyanathan

Image by TravelCoffeeBook from Pixabay 

7 thoughts on “The Kumari by Naga Vydyanathan”

  1. Hi Naga,
    I was delighted to see this on the site today, we all know how hard you worked at this and your professionalism has to be commended!!
    The imagery and the conflict was very interesting and the tone and pace was judged perfectly.


  2. Hello, Naga–
    The opening scene sold me. Kaveri playing with her doll–what a goddess does when no one is watching. The hard work you put it paid off. Great job.


  3. The selection of images and details drew me into the setting and also made the piece believable. Love the girl / goddess playing with her doll in the beginning. That resonated well with the girl / goddess tussle at the end.


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