Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Kumari (Living Goddess) is Retiring

From USA Today 'Living goddess' of Nepal retires March 4, 2008 KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — An 11-year-old girl revered as a living goddess in Nepal has retired early less than a year after she sparked controversy by breaking tradition and traveling overseas, officials said Monday. Sajani Shakya was considered among the top three of Nepal's several "kumaris," or living goddesses. Jaiprasad Regmi, chief of the government trust that manages the affairs of the living goddesses, said Sajani is to be replaced because she had "come of age" and said the decision had nothing to do with last year's row. "We have begun the process of searching for a new kumari," he said. Sajani was temporarily stripped of her revered status last July when she traveled to the United States to promote a documentary about Nepal's centuries-old tradition of living goddesses. Officials removed her title while she was overseas because of tradition that living goddesses do not leave the homeland. Popular support for Sajani apparently forced officials to reverse the decision and reinstate her. On return to Nepal, Sajani was met by hundreds of her supporters and followers who took her to the temple where she is worshipped and held a brief ceremony to welcome her back. Selected as toddlers, living goddesses usually keep their positions until they reach puberty, meaning that Sajani, at age 11, is retiring slightly early. Sajani's family wanted her to take part in another ritual performed for all girls of the Newar ethnic community, to which she belongs, Regmi said. She could not take part in the ceremony while still continuing as the living goddess. Living goddesses are worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. The girls are selected between the ages of 2 and 4 after going through several tests. They are required to have perfect skin, hair, eyes and teeth, should not have scars and should not be afraid of the dark. Devotees touch the girls' feet with their foreheads, the highest sign of respect among Hindus in Nepal. During religious festivals the girls are wheeled around on a chariot pulled by devotees. Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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