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Education’s Importance: Even in 700-Year Traditions

By: Sarah Liu

On June 1, 2001, in Nepal, Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah opened fire at his royal family, killing 9 people, including his parents, the King, and Queen. He then shot himself, becoming king for 3 days while in a coma before death.

This became known as the Nepalese Royal Massacre, which had special timing. Chanira Bajracharya was chosen as a goddess at just 5 years old, part of a 700-year tradition. When she cried for 4 days, the tears were seen as a “terrible omen” for Nepal with the last day being the day of the massacre.

Ms. Bajracharya was worshiped as the kumari (meaning “virgin” in Nepali). She received visitors who kneeled and made offerings for blessing them. She continued her duty for 10 years until she began menstruation.

Though she enjoyed the time being worshiped, most kumaris weren’t allowed outside unless carried out. They lived away from their parents and couldn’t talk to anyone. After their first period, they lose their divinity, and many struggle to walk, speak, or are illiterate

Luckily, Ms. Bajracharya was tutored while her family adapted the tradition for personal freedom. Now with an M.B.A, she believes that young goddesses should get educated. She tells the parents of goddesses, “being a kumari can be a great responsibility, but apart from that she is also a normal girl, and she will have a life after her divine duties, and she needs every skill that is required to survive.”

In 2008, Nepal decided that kumari deserve an education. “Once girls did not study. Now, all children study. So that freedom should be there for kumari,”, said Udhav Man Karmacharya, the priest at Taleju Temple. Though being worshipped has its benefits, Ms. Bajracharya believes that she would not be studying at the prestigious Kathmandu University if it weren’t for the amended tradition.

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