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20 July 2007, 07:19 AM

I was reading an article (below) about Kumari, a chosen pre-pubescent girl of the right qualities who represents the living Devi and is worshipped as such until puberty. I understand it is a Shakta practice that is not limited to Nepal. What is the significance of Kumari worship and how does it fit in with Shakta theology?


Bhaktapur residents rejoice as “Living Goddess” returns home after US sojourn

Upon returning home after a 40-day trip to the United States Wednesday, the Kumari (Living Goddess) of Bhaktapur was warmly received by thousands of locals in Bhaktapur amid much fanfare and celebration.

As soon as she got out of the main terminal of the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), she was hounded by both local and foreign journalists and photographers as well as large number of locals from Bhaktapur who had come to receive her. There was such a huge crowd pressing to get a first glimpse of her that the police had to be called in to control the situation. But nine-year-old Sajani Shakya didn’t had any idea what was happening, as she was totally unawares about all the drama that had happened during her absence. From cultural purists raising questions on the propriety of her visit to United States where she was taken to promote a documentary film related to the Kumari to even demands that she be stripped of her status – everything about this 4th grader who is venerated as a living deity generated much media hype and publicity.

The Guthi Sansthan of Bhaktapur had sought clarification from her parents two weeks ago, alleging that they had broken tradition by sending Sajani abroad. The Sansthan’s head Nuccheraj Shakya had reportedly put pressure on the parents to sign on a paper that said that their daughter should be stripped of her status as ‘the Kumari of Bhaktapur’. But the same office Wednesday completely denied having proceeded to take that kind of action against the Kumari.

“We did not know that the girl (Kumari) could not be sent to other places…now I know it is very hard to be a mother of a living deity,” a visibly happy Rukumini Shakya, mother of Sajani, said to Kantipur Daily, as she hugged her daughter coming out of the airport terminal and showered her with kisses.

The girl was welcomed with bouquets and taken to Bhaktapur where she was paraded around the major thoroughfares and offered religious worship.

The main priest of the Kumari House also observed a traditional ‘pardon ritual’ and placed her in the house after decorating her in traditional attire.

Sajani who was chosen as the living goddess when she was three years old was taken to the United States to inaugurate a film titled ‘Living Goddess’ shown on June 9.