3-year-old Matani Shakya is a newly chosen "kumari," or living incarnation of the deity Talej, worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists in her native Nepal. Although it sounds pretty rad, in fact the life of a child divinity is such a rough one that some say the practice violates child welfare laws. The goddesses, chosen between the ages of 2 and 4 and all members of the poor Shakya goldsmith caste, are selected after judges examine their horoscopes, confirm that they are free of physical imperfections, and can withstand a night alone "among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes" without getting scared. The children are then taken to a kumari house in Katmandu to live in near-isolation until puberty (when their divinity ends) and wheeled in a chariot pulled by followers during religious festivals. Apparently the transition back to normal life can be a difficult one and, since it is commonly believed that marrying a former kumari results in early death for the husbands, many of the girls face difficult and lonely lives. [Yahoo]
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