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KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Perhaps divine intervention helped.
A Nepali girl revered by many as a "living goddess" has become the first sitting deity to pass the high school leaving certificate exam, setting her on course for a career in banking.
Chanira Bajracharya, 15, called Kumari, was among nearly half a million children who took the exams in March. The results were declared late on Friday.
"She scored 80.12 percent marks in the exam," said Abha Awale, a teacher who gave private tuitions to the girl in her temple as she is not allowed to mingle with outsiders.
"This is a distinction (top grade)," she said.
Bajracharya has already scored high marks among devotees in the ancient town of Patan, south of Kathmandu, where she rides in decorated chariots 18 times year during Hindu and Buddhist festivals. She has been Kumari of Patan for nine years now.
Relatives and friends gathered outside Bajracharya's red brick house on Saturday to greet the Kumari with folded hands.
Bajracharya, who has a third eye painted on her forehead, told Reuters in a rare interview in April she wanted to study commerce or accounting and work in banking.
Former Kumaris, considered incarnations of the Hindu goddess Kali, have gone on to work or got married after they retired, which is usually at the onset of puberty.
Girls from Kathmandu's Newar community are chosen by Buddhist priests to serve as "living goddesses," and confined to temples in the three ancient cities of the Kathmandu valley.
Critics say the centuries-old tradition denies them a normal life and leaves them unprepared to face real life after retirement.
Two years ago, Nepal's Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure basic healthcare and education for the Kumaris.
Early this week, the Nepali government raised by a quarter the maintenance allowance provided to the Kumari and said it would bear the expenses for her education.
Editing by Rina Chandran