Nepal's controversial "living goddess" retires

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A controversial young Nepali girl worshipped by many Buddhists and Hindus as a Kumari, or “living goddess”, has given up her divine position following a request from her family, an official said on Sunday.

Sajani Shakya, 11, the controversial young Nepali girl worshipped by many Buddhists and Hindus as a "Kumari", or living goddess, smiles in her home at Bhaktapur in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu March 2, 2008. REUTERS/Shruti Shrestha

The 11-year-old Sajani Shakya was revered for nine years as the Kumari of the ancient temple-town of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, in a centuries-old tradition.

“She is no more a Kumari,” said Dipak Pandey, a senior official of the state-run Trust Corporation that oversees the cultural affairs in the deeply religious nation.

Pandey said Sajani’s family wanted to perform their own religious rituals which required her to give up her divine position and rejoin her family.

Kumaris traditionally retire when they reach the age menstruation.

Last year, Sajani made international headlines after she visited the United States to promote a film by British company about the ancient practice.

Some religious authorities criticized the trip, saying it was against tradition. They even threatened to strip her of the title, but the threat was later withdrawn.

Under the Kumari tradition a girl selected from a Buddhist Newar family through a rigorous cultural process becomes the “living goddess”.

She is considered as an incarnation of the powerful deity Kali and is revered by the Hindus and Buddhists until she menstruates after which she must return to the family and a new one is chosen.

“We are trying to find a replacement for Sajani,” Pandey said.

Some human rights activists have petitioned the Supreme Court to end the practice saying it denies the girl her normal life.

The apex court is yet to deliver a judgment.

Editing by Sanjeev Miglani