Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A living goddess...

I read the most fascinating story yesterday about Nepal appointing a three-year-old girl as its new living goddess.

KATMANDU, Nepal - Wrapped in red silk and adorned with red flowers in her hair, Matani Shakya received approval from the priests and President Ram Baran Yadav in a centuries-old tradition with deep ties to Nepal's monarchy, which was abolished in May. The new "kumari" or living goddess, was carried from her parents' home to an ancient palatial temple in the heart of the Nepali capital, Katmandu, where she will live until she reaches puberty and loses her divine status. She will be worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists as an incarnation of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju. A panel of judges conducted a series of ancient ceremonies to select the goddess from several 2- to 4-year-old girls who are all members of the impoverished Shakya goldsmith caste. The judges read the candidates' horoscopes and check each one for physical imperfections. The living goddess must have perfect hair, eyes, teeth and skin with no scars, and should not be afraid of the dark. As a final test, the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear. Having passed all the tests, the child will stay in almost complete isolation at the temple, and will be allowed to return to her family only at the onset of menstruation when a new goddess will be named to replace her.

Isn't she adorable?

Wow! That's a large bill for such a little girl. A living goddess? I read that devotees touch their heads to her feet as a sign of respect. What a fascinating ritual, eh? I admit ignorance that I've never heard of this.

What do you think? Is this too much of a burden on a little girl? Or is this simply similar to American "beauty pageants?"

Let us know what you think.

Marley = )

GHOST HUNTRESS: THE AWAKENING (Coming May 2009, Houghton Mifflin)
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE GUIDANCE (Coming October 2009, Houghton Mifflin)

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SORORITY 101: The New Sisters (Available from Puffin Books)


The Girl You Used to Know said...

It bothers me. She is taken from her parents and basically lives in isolation until she gets her period. They say the previous goddesses have an enormously tough time readjusting to reality when they're brought down from their pedestal.

I'm not Hindu so I don't totally understand everything surrounding this tradition. It's not my place to say it's 'wrong' but from a human rights standpoint, I think this pushes the envelope toward abuse.

TinaFerraro said...

Mel, I agree with what you said. It's not my place to judge as tradition I don't fully understand, but I'm uncomfortable with many aspects of this.

Kristen Painter said...

I read about this too. Made me feel sorry for the little girl. And I don't really get the point of it. How can someone be a goddess temporarily? I mean, you either are or you aren't, you know?

Anonymous said...

This really bothers me. I agree with Kristen, either she is or she isn't a goddess. This is way beyond our American Beauty Pagents!


Anonymous said...

The divine lives in all of us so for just one person to be considered a living goddess is missing the point to me but then again I too am not familiar with Hindu aspects of worship. I do agree with Mel that being subjected to that kind of isolation at such a young age is a fine line and the effects on the psyche will be devastating when the girl returns to the "real" world. I feel sorry for her really. On the other hand with the caste system in India being what it is she is are going from extreme poverty to extreme wealth in the blink of an eye.

Who am I to judge?


Heather Davis said...

That would be really hard going back to regular life after living as a Goddess.

Kwana said...

That is a tall order but it's hard to judge other customs. They really should be dropping money into a goddess fund as they come in for blessing from her. What will she do for education when she get released.
I feel sad that she is just sent back off like nothing happened.

Anonymous said...

There's a show on the National Geographic channel called "Taboo" and this was one of the topics. They actually interviewed a goddess that had been sent back to her family and she had the HARDEST time adjusting to her family, to her school, to normal life in general (dressing herself, bathing herself, doing her own hair, etc). She said she didn't talk much when she first got home. And still talks very little. She didn't get to see her parents that much and when she did, they were treated like any other villager: they had to bow at her feet and so forth.

They said that goddesses usually have a hard time finding a mate. Which is not surprising.

As everyone else has been saying, I'm not Hindu and I'm not familiar with the customs, but it's an interesting culture, if a bit disturbing.