Some children have the chance to try out for a sports team or be chosen for the school play, but young girls in Nepal have the chance to be a living goddess. The kumari are prepubescent girls who are considered an embodiment of a female deity—the goddess Taleju, a version of Durga, for Hindus; the supreme goddess Vajradevi, a Buddha, for Buddhists. They're worshipped by everyone from locals to kings and presidents. Each kumari is chosen based on 32 characteristics of physical perfection, including unblemished skin and "thighs like a deer, chest like a lion, and eyelashes like a cow," according to NPR. Once the child is selected, she must stay indoors at all times except for during religious festivals. When she does leave her home, she must be carried, since her feet are forbidden from touching the ground. She may only speak to her family, who must perform daily worship rituals known as nitya puja before her each morning. Above all, she must not bleed, because it's believed that the goddess living within her will leave if she loses any blood. For this reason, a kumari is dismissed when she gets her first period, and a new kumari is chosen. Learn more about this custom with the videos below.
The Life of a Kumari
See what it's like to be the living embodiment of a revered goddess.
The History of Buddhism
The basics of the Buddha.
The History of Hinduism
Discover the origins and principles of the Hindu religion.
Written by Curiosity Staff August 26, 2016
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