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Goddess Sacked For Visiting US
By: RSS/News FeedsHungZai Team

A 10-year-old girl who is worshipped as a living goddess in Nepal has been stripped of her title for defying tradition and visiting the US.
Sajani Shakya was one of the three most-revered Kumaris, who are honoured by Hindus and Buddhists alike.

Chosen after undergoing tests at the age of two, she had been expected to bless devotees and attend festivals until she reached puberty.

But she provoked the ire of temple elders by travelling to the US.

Sajani is a Kumari in the town of Bhaktapur, next to the capital, Kathmandu. She recently went to promote a documentary film in the US. Elders said the visit had tainted her purity, adding that they would now begin the search for a successor. Sajani was one of several Kumaris in Nepal, and among the top three who are forbidden from leaving Nepal.

A Kumari is chosen between the ages of two and four, always from the same Buddhist clan. Tradition holds that she must hold 32 attributes, including thighs like those of a deer and a neck like a conch shell. She lives a confined life, only coming out of her palace three or four times a year until she reaches puberty when another Kumari must be found.

This main outing coincides with a festival of thanks to the local rain god and as always, her feet must never touch the ground unless there is a red carpet beneath them. Last November Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into whether the Kumari tradition has led to the exploitation of girls.

The centuries-old Nepali tradition of worshipping living “goddesses”, or Kumaris, is under threat after the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into allegations that it led to the exploitation of young girls. The government inquiry team is assessing the conditions of different Kumari houses around the country.
Sajani Shakya is the nine-year-old Kumari of Bhaktapur. Campaigners claim the Kumari’s life is so protected that it causes long-term psychological damage. Anyone wanting to have a meeting with the Kumari visits the house, but it can be months between calls, says Sajani’s sister.

According to legend, worship of the Kumari by Hindus and Buddhists in the ethnic Newar community was established in the latter part of the the Malla dynasty, which lasted until the 17th century. Devotees worship a Kumari for protection. They also believe her blessings can cure illness. A girl is selected to be a Kumari after rituals and tests. She remains a goddess until puberty. After an early morning ceremony, Sajani puts away the golden Kumari dress and puts on her school uniform. She attends Mount Valley Secondary School in Bhaktapur, where she is in the third grade.

Morning ritual for the students at Mount Valley is compulsory even for a living goddess. Sajani is not treated any differently to the other students. Kumaris were previously unable to attend public schools. But times have changed, says Chunda Bajracharya, a researcher on Newar culture and member of the government inquiry team. Even the main Kumari in Kathmandu has access to education, through a private teacher. Family members of retired Kumaris say they find it difficult to get married because of a misconception among locals that a retired goddess brings bad luck, which could ultimately lead to the untimely death of her husband. The Supreme Court will rule on the future of the tradition after hearing the government’s report, which is in its final stages, says Chunda Bajracharya.

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