Hindu priests have anointed a 3-year-old girl as the new “living goddess,” or kumari, of Kathmandu. She will remain at a palace in the historic center of the Nepali capital until she reaches puberty.
Wearing a red dress, Trishna Shakya, the new kumari, was taken from her home to the ancient Durbar Square for a short initiation ceremony.
Her father then carried her across the cobbled square — which still bears the scars of a powerful earthquake that hit in 2015 — to the temple and palace where she will live under the care of specially appointed guardians.
Trishna was flanked by her family and barefoot men in red tunics on the short walk — the last time she will be seen in public without the elaborate makeup of the kumari until puberty.
“I have mixed feelings. My daughter has become the kumari, and it is a good thing. But there is also sadness because she will be separated from us,” said her father, Bijaya Ratna Shakya.
Trishna leaves behind a twin brother, Krishna, who cried as his sister was taken from the family home.
As the kumari, Trishna is considered the embodiment of the Hindu goddess Taleju and will only be allowed to leave the temple 13 times a year on special feast days.
Hindu priests perform a midnight animal sacrifice as part of the new kumari’s initiation as a living goddess. Historically, 108 buffalo, goats, chickens, ducks and eggs were slaughtered as part of the ritual — a number considered auspicious in Hinduism — but the number has been scaled back under pressure from animal rights activists.
The tradition of the kumari, meaning “princess” in Sanskrit, comes from the Newar community indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley. It blends elements of Hinduism and Buddhism and the most important kumaris represent each of the three former royal kingdoms of the valley: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
The practice was once closely linked to the royal family but has continued despite the end of Nepal’s Hindu monarchy in 2008. Agence France-Presse