KATHMANDU, September 3, 2009 (AFP) – As a child, she was worshipped as a “living goddess” in Nepal after she proved her bravery in an ancient ritual by not crying at the sight of a sacrificed buffalo. But now Rashmila Shakya, 29, meets friends in cafes, listens to Bollywood music — and is building a promising career as a computer software developer.
Last year, Shakya became the first former “Kumari” goddess to graduate from college in Nepal, where the centuries-old practice of worshipping a young female as a deity survives.
The girls — chosen from a single ethnic group native to the Kathmandu Valley — spend their childhood living in isolation in a small palace, emerging only for feast days when they are paraded through the capital to be worshipped.
The selection criteria are strict. Priests say that to become a Kumari, a girl must have an unblemished body, a chest like a lion and thighs like a deer.
Even if they fulfil all the physical requirements, aspiring Kumaris must prove they can sit in a room with a buffalo carcass without crying as a test of their bravery.
Shakya, who was selected aged just four and spent eight years living in the Kumari’s palace in central Kathmand