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According To This Enterprising Woman, Even Goddesses Require Education
By: Abigail Weintraub
At only six years old, Chanira Bajracharya became a goddess.
For many years, Bajracharya lived a life far from ideal. She’d sit wordlessly for days on end as her muscles stiffened, observing as visitors paid tribute by placing fruit and cash into brass bowls in front of her. This is the way a goddess was expected to live- but not for long.
In Patan, Nepal, girls as young as 2 years old are chosen to be the kumari, a living embodiment of a Hindu goddess. The tradition has been going on since the 14th century. Due to the belief that the young goddesses are omnipotent, the kumari are deprived of education.
Traditionally, they are also isolated and instructed to remain stoic because it is thought that a kumari’s emotions reflect the well-being of the country.
“The one chosen by the goddess, she starts showing signs, she’s becoming more polite, her face appears red. Those physical changes, they happen. Everyone who is there can see she’s being possessed by the goddess,” said Bajracharya’s mother, Champa Bajracharya, recalling the day that her daughter was chosen. Even before the birth of her daughter, she had a dream of a lotus flower that fell from heaven into her womb, symbolizing a pure soul who was also a “rebel from the world,” according to a Buddhist priest.
It was evident that Chanira Bajracharya was the ‘chosen one’… but not chosen by nature. It was up to her to make her own future. Bajracharya, the same girl who was worshipped on her throne, is now working for a financial services firm in Nepal. “People used to think because she’s a goddess, she knows everything,” Bajracharya’s mother recalled. “And who dares to teach a goddess?”
However, lacking education can be seriously detrimental to one’s life, especially as a former kumari. It is believed that kumari lose their divinity when entering adolescence, so the illiterate ex-kumari struggle to acquire jobs and get on with life. Bajracharya aspires to change this. In addition to fulfilling duties, Bajracharya urges the line of kumari to educate themselves so they can retire later without feeling lost.
“Once girls did not study. Now all children study. So that freedom should be there for kumari,” said Udhav Man Karmacharya, the head priest at Taleju Temple in Kathmandu. Although kumari are regarded with the utmost respect, they still have a life ahead of them. Bajracharya intends to ensure that it will be a good one.