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Tag Archives: Asia

Asian Date | The Fascinating World Of Kumaris: Nepal’s Living Goddesses

The Fascinating World Of Kumari, Nepal’s Living Goddesses

Have you ever heard of a living god or goddess before? You most probably have not because it is not common. The deities that we know of in many religions, Greek mythology or even in our story books, usually manifest in the form of a spirit. But, the Kumaris of Nepal are different because they are living and breathing.

Introducing The Kumari

Asian Date | The Culture And Tradition Of Nepal

The Kumari can be as young as 4 years old. She has to live in a palace until she becomes a teen.

Yes, you read that right. In Nepal, a Kumari or Kumari Devi is a tradition where pre-pubescent, young girls are chosen and worshiped as living goddesses. In the Hindu religion, the chosen young girl is believed to be a manifestation of the female energy or devi. Practitioners also believe that the goddess Telaju presents herself in the chosen young girl. There are several Kumaris, one for each practicing region. The highest Kumari, however, is known as the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu.

Kumari’s believers pray to her and ask for their wishes to be granted. Gazing upon her is considered to bring good fortune in a believer’s life.

The Story Of Telaju And The King

One cannot fully grasp the tradition without understanding the most familiar story of how the tradition of Kumari began. There are several legends, but there’s a striking pattern to the legends – it involves King Jayaprakash Malla, the last Nepalese king of the Malla Dynasty. He and the Goddess Telaju have been playing a game of dice almost every night. The deal was for Telaju to continue playing the game as long as the King didn’t tell anyone of their meetings.

Out of curiosity, the queen secretly followed the king one night, to see who he has frequently been meeting. When the goddess Telaju found out, she was very angered and told the king that if he wanted to see her and still keep protecting his country, he would have to look for her among common people as she would reincarnate in a little girl. King obeyed and the tradition of Kumari was born.

What Happens When A Kumari Is Chosen?

Little girls as young as 4 years old will have to leave their family and live in the palace. The majority of the time they are looked after by their servants and only leave the palace when they are needed for ceremonial occasions. Kumari’s family rarely visits her. She doesn’t have a lot of playmates growing up like regular children. When she enters adolescents and menstruates, that’s the time that she leaves the palace and returns to her family. It is said that blood is a sign of the goddess Telaju leaving her body.

This is just one of the many interesting practices the Asian culture has. To know more about Asia and its people, check out more posts on our blog.

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Cobra Blood: An Indonesian Aphrodisiac

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You may not know it, but there are lots of reasons to drink cobra blood. Don’t believe us? Just ask the US Marines who partook during in-depth jungle survival training, or “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern, who tipped back a glass just for the taste of it.

Snakes have been prominently featured in culture and healing throughout history, even having a starring role in the most famous story from the Bible. Asian medicinal practices have been using various snake parts in treatment since 100 AD. Cobra blood in particular is prized for its supposed healing properties, and has been used for everything from rashes and arthritis to surgical recovery and cancer.

There is, however, a slightly more salacious motivation driving those who visit snake blood purveyors in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia: S-E-X.

Cobra blood has long been revered as a potent aphrodisiac and libido kick-starter. Visitors to these regions will find cobra blood offered in certain bars, restaurants, and also trucks and trolleys on the street. There is no conclusive scientific or medical evidence to the sex-drive-boosting claims, but that doesn’t stop masses of people from squeezing fresh blood from a snake’s body into their mouth.

That, or sucking the blood directly from the body of a snake that has just been beheaded in front of you, is the best way to consume the blood. And let’s be honest, it’s also the most badass. We even have a hunch that this badass-ness could be contributing to these libidinous claims.

Most aphrodisiacs, especially from the Far East, are derived from creatures that are either dangerous or extremely. The belief that power can be drawn from the bodies of rare, poisonous, or fierce animals operates on multiple levels. On one hand, the user can imagine that some part of the animal’s biological fierceness is now literally within them as well, and on the other, it’s thought that ingesting or slaughtering a dangerous animal is in itself a display of bravery and strength. The more poisonous the species is, the more potent its aphrodisiac qualities.

 

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For those who don’t want to suck the blood straight from the snake’s body, there are other options. For the more genteel vampires out there, cobra blood cocktails are quite popular, utilizing a base of rice wine or vodka. Or, you could always toss it back from a shot glass.

Fear not, conservation-minded folks. It’s common to cook up the entire snake once you’re done ingesting its blood, either by roasting the meat and using it in soups, deep-fried on skewers, or just sautéed as a main dish.

There are restaurants that will let you select your snake and aid in its murder, and more adventurous tourists can prove their invincibility by biting the snake’s still-beating heart out of its body and feeling it beat in your mouth before you swallow it. Not kidding. This is a thing that people do.

At that point, it makes sense that your virility would be full and throbbing. But be warned that if you copy this behavior, which many people did after it was portrayed in the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, you’re risking infection and possible salmonella poisoning. But that doesn’t matter to a big, strong beast like you, right?

Take a look at the video below to see if you could handle it. Pro tip: It’s perfectly OK to say “no thank you.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNgziIrqCro

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Indonesia’s Rafflesia Flower Is 5 Feet Tall and Smells like Rotting Flesh

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Flowers are generally considered to be nice and pleasant, right? A lovely gift, a very traditional romantic gesture, a way to celebrate special occasions, even a way to say “I love you.”

If you gave someone a Rafflesia, however, it probably wouldn’t go over so well. More than likely, they’d be crumbling under the size and weight of the thing, or nauseous from the stench.

The Rafflesia is a parasitic flower native to the jungles of Indonesia, and at 3’6” in diameter and weighing in at 24 lbs., it holds the all-time size record for flowers. When Sir Stamford Raffles discovered the Rafflesia arnoldii in 1818, he described it as “perhaps the largest and most magnificent flower in the world,” and modestly named it after himself and his companion, surgeon-naturalist Dr. James Arnold.

The world’s largest flower lacks many of the traditional markers of what makes a flower: namely leaves, stems, and roots. The huge, five-petaled parasitic flower has nutrient-absorbing threads to suck the life from its host plant; a particular type of vine called the Tetrastigma vine, which grows only in undisturbed rainforests.

There are at least 13 species of Rafflesia, but two of them haven’t been sighted since World War Two and are presumed extinct. The record-holding Rafflesia arnoldii is also facing extinction. To make matters worse, no one has ever cultivated Rafflesia in a garden or laboratory.

This might be due to the smell.

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The Rafflesia is commonly referred to as the corpse flower. It was designed by nature to emit a foul odor mimicking rotting flesh, which attracts certain insects like carrion flies, who then provide pollination and ensure that the stinky circle of life carries on. The repulsive smell of the flower is due to the reddish tentacle-like, branched ramentae, inside the corolla of petals.

The Rafflesia arnoldii is an iconic symbol of the Southeast Asian rainforest, and is often used in tourist brochures to symbolize the rich biodiversity of the region’s forests. The flower has also been depicted on Indonesian postage stamps on several occasions. The flower is used as the symbol of the Flora Malesiana project, which aims to describe all flowering plants from the region between Thailand and Australia.

Although officially on the endangered list, the shockingly large and stinky flowers are a tourist staple. The flowers appear on national Indonesian literature and brochures, and draw intrigued visitors from far and wide.

The Rafflesia won’t win any beauty contests (or be handed out to any pageant winners either,) but it has value as part of Indonesia’s ecosystem and tourism industry. Just steer clear of them come Valentine’s Day unless you want to start a fight.