There is a new Nepal Living Goddess. Unfortunately, she needs to be appointed by the King and he’s no longer in power. Read about it, see photos and a video below.

A new Living Goddess was selected in the ancient temple town of Bhaktapur, Nepal. The girl is six-year-old, Shreeya and replaces Sajani Shakaya, who served in the position for the past nine years. Sajani was forced to retire early due to a controversy surrounding her ‘crossing the black water’ to promote a documentary that had been made of her life by British film maker, Ishbel Whitaker. Its forbidden for Living Goddesses to leave the country.

The problem is that there is no one to officially appoint her as Bhaktapur’s new deity. The Head Priest of the King of Nepal has performed this task throughout the 239 years the monarchy existed. As you know, King Gyanendra of Nepal was deposed on May 29th and is in the process of vacating his royal palaces.

There is also a petition before the courts in Nepal to end the practice of Living Goddesses altogether. Human Rights activists feel that it denies the child the ability to live a normal life. The court is supposed to render a decision on that petition sometime in July.

No decisions have been made as to how religious authorities will address the issue of appointing Shreeya to her new position since the King has been deposed. That, in addition to the petition to end the practice have left the future of the new Living Goddess in limbo.

Nepal Living Goddess History

The practice of worshiping prepubescent girls has been a part of the culture of Nepal since time immemorial. The girls that are chosen for the role of Living Goddess are called Kumari and are usually chosen between the ages of 2 and 4 years of age. They are virgin goddesses. There are three top Living Goddesses, one from Bhaktapur, one from Patan and the main Living Goddess, the Kumari Devi, who lives in an ancient temple in Kathmandu. All except the main Living Goddess live a relatively ordinary life except for about two weeks a year during festivals. The main Kumari’s life is restricted to the temple and her religious and ceremonial rituals are much more elaborate than the others.

During the festival of Indra Jatra, the girls are dressed in grand splendor and covered in jewels. They are carried through the streets in three tiered chariots. Thousands come to pay homage and hope to receive a blessing for the girl. It is believed that she brings good luck and is able to give blessings. The crowds try to touch her feet in respect and to receive good luck from her. Traditionally, the main Kumari blesses the King and has done so since the first king of the Shah dynasty annexed Kathmandu in 1768.

The selection of a Living Goddess is a long and difficult process. The girls are put through a series of tests to see if they have the characteristics to become divine. For instance, in one phase of the testing, they are put into a darkened room where they are confronted with buffalo heads, demon-like dancers and loud terrifying noises. A goddess is expected to not be frightened and to be able to remain calm and rational during this procedure, even at the young ages they are selected, between 2 and 7 years of age.

There are 32 attributes that are required to be a Living Goddess. These attributes include things like perfect skin, eye color, the shape of their teeth, their horoscope, the sound of their voice and their family linage.

The girls remain Kumari until their first menstruation. At that point they retire from their position and another young girl is chosen to replace them. Sadly, it is very difficult for a former-Kumari to find a husband. It is believed that she brings bad luck to her husband and that he will die a premature death. Attempts have been made to counter this traditional belief so that the former-Living Goddesses can go on to a normal life once their tenure as a deity is over.

Nepal Living Goddess – Video

photo source: National Geographic, archives