Wednesday, July 04, 2007

'Goddess' sacked for visiting US

Kumari Sajani Shakya
Kumari Sajani Shakya was promoting a documentary abroad
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.

Attributes needed

Sajani is a Kumari in the town of Bhaktapur, next to the capital, Kathmandu.

Bhaktapur Kumari

In pictures: Child goddess

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.


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