Home International US trip lands Nepal’s ‘Living Goddess’ in trouble

US trip lands Nepal’s ‘Living Goddess’ in trouble


Kathmandu : Nepal's "Living Goddess" has come under censure for not knowing that it was not right to visit the US. However, there is strong extenuating ground for her ignorance – she is only 10-years-old after all.

Sajani Shakya, who comes from Bhaktapur district in Kathmandu valley, started leading an extraordinary life from the age of two, when she was recognised as one of the three living goddesses of the valley.

The tradition derives from ancient history, when a king ruled over his enemies under the guidance of a goddess, Taleju Bhawani, but lost her favour due to his foolishness and began losing to his foes.

When he regretted his lapse and began wooing the goddess, she relented but to a degree. She said she would return to the kingdom in the form of a young girl, who should be worshipped as a living goddess.

Once the tradition took root, the three separate kingdoms in Kathmandu valley began appointing their own "living goddesses" – young girls chosen on the basis of horoscopes that go well with the king's and other signs.

However, once the living goddess – "Kumari" – reaches puberty, she has to step down and a new successor is chosen.

Growing-up was not the problem in case of Sajani Shakya, the Kumari of Bhaktapur, but her trip abroad.

Ishbel Whitaker, a British documentary maker, made a film "Living Goddess" that depicted Sajani's life as a goddess and was screened at the Silverdocs Film Festival in Maryland.

Sajani was invited to tour the US to promote the documentary. Her itinerary also included trips to the White House, the Capitol and the Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, DC, where curious third graders bombarded her with questions about her life.

The visit, which began mid-June, resulted in a blaze of publicity for Sajani both abroad and at home. However, the limelight had its fallout.

Back at home, the Bhaktapur Guthi Sansthan that selects the Bhaktapur Kumaris, is irked by the visit, which is not in keeping with the tradition of the living goddess.

"The Living Goddess never ventures out," Rajen Bhoju, senior assistant at the Guthi, told IANS.

The Kumaris are meant to stay in their palaces and go out only on special occasions. Even then, they never touch the ground and either walk on a red carpet or are carried.

However, the Bhaktapur Kumaris have been an exception in that they have been attending school, unlike the other two kumaris, who are taught privately in their palaces.

A major controversy was created by Kantipur, Nepal's leading daily, that Tuesday said the outraged Guthi had asked her father to explain why she was allowed to go abroad.

It also said that the officials had decided to strip her of her post and appoint a new kumari. Bhoju however said the Guthi was holding discussions and that no final decision had been taken.

Sajani Shakya is scheduled to return home Wednesday. If she is removed, she would be the first living goddess to have been so disgraced.