Nepalese 'goddess' is reinstated
- Thursday, 19 July 2007, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UKNepalese 'goddess' is reinstatedA 10-year-old girl who is worshipped as a living goddess in Nepal has had her title reinstated after defying tradition and visiting the US.Temple authorities at her home town say that she will not be stripped of her title because she is willing shortly to undergo a "cleansing" ceremony.Sajani Shakya was one of the three most-revered Kumaris, who are honoured by Hindus and Buddhists alike.She was chosen after undergoing tests at the age of two.Since then she has been expected to bless devotees and attend festivals until she reaches puberty.But she provoked the ire of temple elders by travelling to the US.Sajani returned from her visit to America on Wednesday. Correspondents say that she was "seemingly unaware" of the controversy.
Such has been the publicity surrounding her visit, she was greeted by a large crowd of friends and onlookers in Kathmandu on Wednesday who beat drums and blew trumpets.
Sajani is one of several Kumaris in Nepal, and among the top three who are forbidden from leaving the country.
Her 39-day visit was to promote a documentary film in the US.
Elders at her home town in Bhaktapur said at the time that the visit had tainted her purity, and that they were beginning the search for a successor.
But now they say she will not be stripped of her title because she will soon undergo a "cleansing ceremony" in which any sins she may have committed will be removed.
The British makers of the documentary have apologised for any controversy caused.
"She is a normal child and a living goddess. She has both lives," film director Ishbel Whitaker told the Reuters news agency.
Shakya visited Washington, met Nepalis living in the US, toured a school and met American children.
"It was a lovely opportunity for her," said Ms Whitaker. "It was a great experience when American children told Sajani about their lives and she told them about her life."
Living goddesses are selected from the Buddhist Shakya family - the same caste which Buddha came from - and must follow certain rules, such as being kept in a dark room without crying.
The young girls live in temples, and return to normal life when they reach puberty.
In return, the goddesses get allowances and a monthly pension after retirement.
But human rights activists say the tradition constitutes child abuse.