The Goddess who can’t leave home


 

Seven-year-old Kumari called Yunika is worshipped by everyone in her country of Nepal. Picture: AFP/ Prakash Mathema

By: Vanessa Brown/news.com.au

THIS IS Yunika, and she is the seven-year-old ‘Goddess’ worshipped in Nepal.

Draped in traditional costume and decorated in face paint, the young girl is known as a Kumari — a centuries-old tradition that means she will give luck to anyone who lays eyes on her.

The Kumari’s (which translates to Goddess) are chosen within Nepal through specific standards, and have been featured in an exclusive US ABC Nightline documentary.

Worshipped by Buddhists and Hindus alike, the young girl is typically aged between 2-4 years when selected.

The Kumari, is considered a living goddess, and isn’t allowed to leave her home unless it’s for a holy ritual. Picture: AFP/Prakash Mathema

The Kumari, is considered a living goddess, and isn’t allowed to leave her home unless it’s for a holy ritual. Picture: AFP/Prakash MathemaSource:AFP

They must also have an astrological chart that is supportive of the King of Nepal. They are tested for a reported 32 physical attributes, including “eyelashes like a cow” and a “voice as clear as a duck”.

These “goddess” children must live with their parents, who in turn quit their jobs and become the Kumari’s fulltime carers, and are only able to leave their homes to attend holy festivals.

The goddesses feet never touch the ground, and are usually carried around by their parents when required to leave the house.

Nepal's Kumari is considered a living goddess and attends festivities on the first day of the Rato Machindranath Chariot Festival in Lalitpur, near Kathmandu. Picture: AFP/Prakash Mathema

Nepal’s Kumari is considered a living goddess and attends festivities on the first day of the Rato Machindranath Chariot Festival in Lalitpur, near Kathmandu. Picture: AFP/Prakash MathemaSource:AFP

But what sounds like an honour, has also meant Yunika has been stripped of a normal childhood.

According to Nightline, which was granted special access to see this Kumari prepare for a day of receiving worshippers, the girl is only allowed to play with other children indoors — while others play games outside.

“When my daughter was selected as a Kumari, I felt very happy,” her father Ramesh Bajracharya said through a translator. “It’s because Kumari is hugely regarded and respected living goddess in Nepal.”

But that respect is short lived — with the role being snapped away as soon as the girls reach puberty.

Yunika is a Kumari, who is believed to bring good luck to anyone who views her. Picture: AFP/Prakash Mathema.

Yunika is a Kumari, who is believed to bring good luck to anyone who views her. Picture: AFP/Prakash Mathema.Source:AFP

“When I was a Kumari, [I was not] allowed to walk outside. So it was a little bit uncomfortable when, after I retired from the Kumari house, a little uncomfortable walking on the road,” a now 32-year-old Rashmila Shakya told Nightline.

The other challenge that faces the retired Kumaris is the superstition that follows them. According to Ms Shakya, who served as a Kumari for eight years, a man who marries someone like her is destined to die young.

“This is only a superstition — that if the Kumari marries a guy, the guy will die. This is only a superstition,” Ms Shakya said.

“All of the ex-Kumari are married. And I just married six months ago. This is only a rumour.”

Even the Prime Minister of Nepal has paid his respects to young Yunika, who — along with the government — provide lifelong a pension to former Kumaris.

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