Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Living Goddess" Fired!

Nepali "living goddess" fired after U.S. visit

Tue Jul 3, 2:11 AM ET

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A 10-year-old Nepali girl worshipped as a living goddess, or Kumari, has lost her "divine" status for defying tradition and visiting the United States.

Sajani Shakya was installed at the age of two as the Kumari of the ancient town of Bhaktapur, near the capital Kathmandu, where she was revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike in deeply religious Nepal.

But a recent trip to the United States to promote a British-made documentary exploring Nepal's traditions and contemporary political turmoil has upset local religious leaders.

"It is wrong and against the tradition for her to go on a foreign tour without any permission," the chief of a trust that manages the affairs of Bhaktapur's Kumari tradition, Jai Prasad Regmi, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"This is impure in our tradition. We will search for a new Kumari and install her as the living goddess," Regmi said.

Bhaktapur's is one of several Kumaris in the Kathmandu valley, home to 1.5 million people. The most important lives in a 15th century temple in Kathmandu's ancient Durbar Square.

Living goddesses are chosen from the Buddhist Shakya family after a tough selection process.

They are required to stay in temples blessing devotees until reaching puberty, after which they rejoin their family and lead a normal life.

"We are discussing whether or not to pay Sajani monthly pension. We are positive on this," Regmi said.

While other living goddesses get a monthly pension of $17 (8 pounds) each after retirement, Kathmandu's gets about $50 a month.

Nepal's Supreme Court last year ordered the government to submit a detailed report on whether the Kumari tradition violated the children's human rights. Officials say the study is underway.

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