Hindu and Buddhist priests chanted hymns and cascaded flowers and grains of rice over a 3-year-old girl who was appointed a living goddess on Tuesday.
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 Nepalese 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.
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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 candidates' horoscopes and check each for physical imperfections. The 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.
“I feel a bit sad, but since my child has become a living goddess I feel proud,” said her father, Pratap Man Shakya.
Matani Shakya replaces Sajani Shakya, who sparked a public debate about the role of the goddesses.