In Nepal, there exists a centuries-old tradition of identifying young girls as living goddesses — Kumaris — who are venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists. In a documentary aired recently on ABC’s Nightline, access was granted to the Patan home of a 7-year-old Kumari, Yunika, as she prepared to receive worshippers.
Yunika’s parents are her full-time caretakers — carrying her everywhere, even at home, because her feet are never supposed to touch the ground. She can only leave home for festivals, and must appear publicly in meticulously applied, customary make-up — a task her mother had to train in. Identifying features of a Kumari (who are chosen between the ages of 2 and 4) include an astrological chart compatible with the king’s, and 32 specific physical attributes, that include “eyelashes like a cow,”thighs like a deer,” and a voice “as clear as a duck.” Some have criticized the tradition, calling it child labor.
Asked about her daughter, Yunika’s mother Sabita Bajracharya said, through a translator, “I feel little sad that other children play outside, but her friends do come to play with her inside. Whatever she demands, dolls or any plaything, we fulfill her demands.”
Once a girl is chosen, she is considered an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga — until puberty, when the role abruptly ends.
Rashmila Shakya, 32, a former Kumari interviewed for the documentary, said learning to walk outside was one of the peculiar challenges when she was restored to normality aged 12. She also laughed about the superstition that says men who marry former Kumaris will die young. “All of the ex-Kumari are married,” she said.
Read the full story at ABC.