Girl, 3, becomes Nepal's new "living goddess"

Tue Oct 7, 2008 7:30am EDT
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Authorities in Nepal enthroned a three-year-old girl as a new Kumari, or the main "living goddess," on Tuesday, in a centuries-old ritual the country's new Maoist-led coalition has allowed to continue.

Traditionally, different cities in the Kathmandu Valley have separate "living goddesses." But the most powerful one lives in an ornate 15th century temple in an old part of Kathmandu.

On Tuesday, Matina Shakya, her eyelashes blackened thick with mascara and wearing a red and gold costume, was installed in the divine role she is expected to keep for the next 7-8 years.

"I am proud of her selection as the Kumari," said Pratapman Shakya, the father of the girl picked by a panel of cultural experts.

"I'm also a bit sorry because she will not stay with the family. But that does not matter because she is going to become the goddess. We can visit her whenever we want."

She replaced the 11-year-old Preeti Shakya, who is approaching puberty and must retire.

Kumaris are a major tourist attraction and are considered by many as incarnations of the goddess Kali and are revered until they menstruate, after which they return to the family and a new one is chosen.

In the past Nepali kings have sought the Kumari's blessings, but now the president will do so after the abolition of the monarchy.   Continued...

<p>Matina Shakya, after being appointed as the new living goddess or Kumari, is seen with her mother Sunita Shakya in Kathmandu October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar</p>