Nepal names 6 year old girl a 'living goddess'

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nepal's government has named Shreeya Bajracharya, a six year old, as the country's new Kumari or "living goddess", as part of a century old tradition.

In the past, Kumaris have been appointed by the country's monarchy, which was abolished earlier this year and replaced with the recently elected Maoists. "Just because we are now a republic and no longer have a king or royal priest, does not mean we should end our traditions," said Keshab Bahadur Shrestha, one of the officials who selected Shreeya.

The new Maoist government was heavily criticized and protested last week after attempting to cut funds to the "Royal Kumari" festival. Up until last month's court decision ruled it a violation of human rights, the Kumaris were isolated in palaces and kept away from the public.

The girls are revered as reincarnations of the Hindu goddess Taleju and are both tourist and religious attractions until they have their first menstruation, when they are no longer considered goddesses. They are chosen through 32 strict tests of physical attributes, requiring traits like "cow's eyelashes".

Shreeya, a farmer's daughter, said she wants to be a nurse someday. Admirers have praised her for being "pretty and smart".

Her predecessor resigned due to controversy over her break from tradition, when she traveled to the US to promote a film about herself and Kumaris.