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Sajani Shakya – Child Goddess – Retired

Posted by shadmia on March 6, 2008


Sajani Shakya, 11, was until recently a Kumari – A Child Goddess. Even though she is a Buddhist, she was considered to be the manifestation of the Hindu goddess Kali. It is an ancient traditional blending of the two religions, unique to Nepal.

Kumari are chosen between the ages of 2 and 4 from an elite Buddhist caste, the Shakya, of the Newa people. They have to fulfill exactly 32 perfections, none of them easily ascertained. Among them:

Perfect skin, the gait “of a swan,” a body shaped like a banyan tree, thighs like a deer, cheeks like a lion, not afraid of the dark, and a neck like a conch shell.

“It’s a very ancient tradition. Its roots go back to almost the dawn of time,” Ishbel Whitaker, the director of the film “Living Goddess,” told ABC News. “It’s a tradition where young girls are revered and in many ways this enhances the status of girls within the culture.” The goddess Kali is believed to leave the girls’ bodies as they reach puberty. For more on the history of Sajani Shakya – Child Goddess click this link.

However, in this case, the 11-year-old Sajani Shakya retired early, not yet having reached puberty. Her family wanted her to take part in another religious ritual: a “marriage” to a Bael, a fruit-bearing tree indigenous to that part of Asia.

Baelbael-fruit.jpgbael-tree.jpg (Aegle marmelos) is a fruit-bearing tree indigenous to dry forests on hills and plains of central and southern India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. The tree, which is the only species in the genus Aegle, grows up to 18 meters tall and bears thorns and fragrant flowers. It has a woody-skinned, smooth fruit 5-15 cm in diameter. The skin of some forms of the fruit is so hard it must be cracked open with a hammer. It has numerous seeds, which are densely covered with fibrous hairs and are embedded in a thick, gluey, aromatic pulp. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. The fruit is also used in religious rituals and as a ayurvedic remedy for such ailments as diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasites, dryness of the eyes, and the common cold. It is a very powerful antidote for chronic constipation. In Hinduism, the Lord Shiva is said to live under the Bael tree. In the traditional culture of Nepal, the Bael tree is part of an important fertility ritual for girls known as the Bel baha.

Nhuchhe Shakya, Sajani’s father, who also works for the committee in charge of finding a replacement for his daughter, said: “In Bhaktapur, we have a tradition to get our girls married to a Bael (Aegle marmelos), a fruit dedicated to Lord Shiva, around the age of 10 or 11”. This ritual ensures that the girl becomes and remains fertile. It is believed that if the girl’s husband dies later in her life, she is not considered a widow because she is married to Shiva.

Dipak Pandey, a senior official of the state-run Trust Corporation that oversees Nepalā€™s cultural affairs, confirmed that Shakya had relinquished her position because her family wanted to perform their own religious ritual, a traditional symbolic wedding, that would require her to give up her divine status.

“We have started the process to find a new Kumari for Bhaktapur,” Jaya Prasad Regmi, the head of the committee which manages the centuries-old Hindu tradition, said. “We are holding meetings with locals and people from (the) Shakya cast.”

“She knew that she was not going to remain a Kumari all her life, so she is mentally prepared. I think she will handle it well.” Nhuchhe Shakya says.

Now that Sajani Shakya is no longer a Kumari, a position she had held for almost 9 years of her short life, what is next?….. She recently took an entrance exam to enter into a prestigious middle school. She will, once again, be a mortal among girls and boys her age.

“Her mother prepared her that she couldn’t live in this world of worship,” film director Whitaker notes. “Her mother stressed the importance of education. It’s good to study at school and become something in adult life too. Her family have been great and have made her understand that at one point, all of this will end, and she has to function as a normal child.”



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One Response to “Sajani Shakya – Child Goddess – Retired”

  1. […] The life of the Kumari parallels that of a child star. Tortured and twisted by unwarranted prepubescent worship, like Danny Bonaduce before them the Kumari tend to go a little insane after their expulsion from the temple upon menstruation. The last Living Goddess was unceremoniously disposed for traveling to America (forbidden, like education until recently), was reinstated, then retired and was married off to a fruit tree. […]

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