Sajani Shakya – Child Goddess – Fired!
Posted by shadmia on July 4, 2007
Sajani Shakya the 9 year old child goddess from Nepal has lost her job and her divinity. She is no longer a Kumari or virgin deity. She will no longer be worshipped as a living goddess. She has lost the position in Nepalese society that she has held since she was 2 years old.
It is ironic that the very thing that introduced her to the Western World and created a huge interest in the religious practices in Nepal was the very thing that caused her downfall………her visit to the US.
Sajani Shakya had her status revoked because she broke with tradition by leaving the country, the state-run National News Agency reported, quoting Narendra Prasad Joshi, chief of the Bhaktapur Taleju Temple where Sajani is based. She is among several “Kumaris,” or living goddesses, in Nepal, but as one of the kingdom’s top three, is forbidden from leaving the country.
Temple officials intend to replace her when she returns to Nepal. Sajani Shakya was installed at the age of two as the Kumari of the ancient town of Bhaktapur, near the capital Kathmandu, where she was revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike in deeply religious Nepal. But her recent trip to the US has upset local religious leaders.
“This is impure in our tradition. We will search for a new Kumari and install her as the living goddess. We are discussing whether or not to pay Sajani monthly pension.”
The Kumari, or virgin deity, is a Hindu cult practised in Nepal, and represents the reincarnation of Dea Taleju Bhawani, also known in India as Durga. The Kumari are chosen among the Buddhist children of the Newar Shakya caste, resident in Kathmandu for at least three generations; the cast is the same one to which Buddha belonged. Even if chosen among Buddhists they are equally venerated by Hindus. During her annual feast, Kumari Jiatra, she is permitted to go out in public in a covered carriage.
After reaching puberty each Kumari is retired, given a pension, which in the case of Sajani Shakya would amount to about $50 a month and sent back to their families to lead a normal life.
However life after being a Kumari can be very difficult as related by a former Kumari. Rashmila Shakya, born in Kwahiti, was a Kumari from 1984 to 1991. She is now 24 years old and is about to graduate in Computer Technology. At the age of 4 she was taken from her family to become a Kumari and was confined within a Kumari Ghar (the temple dedicated to the living deities). Here is how some see the Kumari:
They are born mortal humans, members of the lower castes, but are then elevated to the realms of the living deities; forced to live in isolation from early childhood, without friends and deprived of an education, on their first menstruation or sign of illness they return human once more, have to drastically adapt themselves to the difficulties of everyday life. They are the Kumari, Hinduism’s living deities, who are now beginning to rebel against the “inhuman superstitions” who in Nepal, are forced to live a lonely single life, deprived of affection in the belief that anyone who marries them will die within a few months.
“There was no formal education system then. An old tutor used to come everyday to teach me for an hour. But that wasn’t sufficient in any way” says Rashmila.
Rashmila only began formal education at the age of 12, when she was substituted with a new Kumari. Now she is reclaiming her right to a normal life and promises to challenge the “inhuman superstition” which would have her remain single for the rest of her life. It is believed that any man who marries a former Kumari is condemned to die within six months, coughing blood.
In what seems to be a changing of attitudes towards the Kumari, last November Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into whether the Kumari tradition has led to the exploitation of girls. It ordered the government to submit a detailed report on whether the Kumari tradition violated the children’s human rights. Officials say the study is underway.
So maybe we should not feel sorry for Sajani Shakya. Having her status as a Kumari revoked may just have been the best thing for a very pretty young girl who has her whole life ahead of her.
PS: Update on Sajani Shakya – She has been reinstated!! Click Here for more details