Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A "Living goddess"

Like any typical schoolgirl, 13-year-old Chanira Bajracharya struggles to finish hours of homework each day. That doesn't stop her from stealing away to watch TV (she enjoys HBO; her younger brothers often change it to Nickelodeon) or use the computer. She even has Barbies, but now that she's older, painting has replaced organizing tea parties as her favorite pastime.

The similarities end there. To start, no one – including her family – may scold her. Chanira eats whatever she desires, though she's yet to abuse this power by demanding an endless supply of ice cream. And don't even mention chores.

It may seem like she's hit the jackpot, but in exchange for this life of relative luxury, she's forbidden to leave her five-story home, save for religious holidays. She must also endure a constant stream of Hindu followers who come seeking her healing powers or to snap a photo of her.

You see, she's no mere mortal: Chanira is one of three main kumaris, or "living goddesses," here in the fabled Kathmandu Valley. The practice of worshiping young girls – and then casting them aside once they reach puberty – is unique to this Himalayan nation. - Christian Science Monitor

Prateek, would you like to explain this phenomenon?

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