Nepal`s `Living Goddess` faces acid test

Last Updated: Monday, March 15, 2010 - 16:27

Kathmandu: One of the many thousands of students appearing for Nepal`s tough school-leaving examinations is Chanira Bajracharya, who is also worshipped in Kathmandu`s neighbouring Lalitpur city as Kumari, the "Living Goddess" of Nepal.
The pre-pubescent girl will appear for the School Leaving Examination from the Bhaswara Higher Secondary School, the Kantipur daily reported.

Chanira was chosen as the Kumari of the Patan area of Kathmandu valley when she was a second grader.

Subsequently, following tradition, she stopped going to school. However, heeding a Supreme Court directive that has asked the government to recognise the human rights of the Kumaris and allow them to be educated, teachers of the school have chosen to coach the "goddess" at her residence.

Kathmandu valley has three Kumaris, who were once regarded as the protective deities of the royal family.

Though Nepal abolished monarchy in 2008, due to the public reverence the Kumaris enjoy, the government has decided to continue the tradition as a cultural one.

Based on certain auspicious signs, the Kumaris are chosen from the Newar community, who are regarded as the clan of the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The selected Kumaris leave their parental home to live in their own palaces and are not allowed to tread on earth, being either carried in arms or riding in a chariot.

The image of the Kumari is as popular in Nepal as that of Mt Everest, the highest peak that is also Nepal`s pride.

The Kumari appears before public wearing dazzling red clothes woven with gold threads, her hair tied high and covered with a garland of flowers.

She is also characterised by deeply kohl-underlined eyes and a third eye painted in red on her forehead.

Chanira, the Living Goddess` routine has changed due to the imminent exams.

She starts her morning with a two-hour tuition after which she becomes the Kumari again, taking part in her daily worship ritual.

The worship is followed by brunch break following which she is required to appear before her devotees.

In the evening, she becomes a student again.

After she finishes her school - and probably outgrows being a goddess - this Kumari wants to take up a career in banking.

He teachers say she is intelligent and scored 78 percent marks during the pre-exam test.

By tradition, a Living Goddess is stripped of her status once she loses a tooth or starts menstruating.

Since the fall of monarchy, Nepal`s orthodox Kumari tradition has also undergone change.

About two years ago, the Kumari of Bhaktapur city, Sajani Shakya, created a turmoil when she ventured to go abroad.

Shakya`s trip to the US on the invitation of a documentary maker, who was screening a film on her, resulted in the temple authorities "sacking" the young girl.

However, after the incident hit the headlines, they reinstated her.


First Published: Monday, March 15, 2010 - 16:27

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