Nepal’s newly retired ‘living goddess’ starts

KATHMANDU: Matina Shakya was only three when she was taken away from her parents to be worshipped as a “living goddess” in Nepal’s historic capital. On Monday she finally started school after puberty ended her nine-year reign.

Dressed in a green uniform and stripped of the heavy make-up she used to wear, Shakya, 12, looked like any other student as she walked into the Green Peace Co-ed School in Kathmandu.

Fellow students and teachers had gathered outside to welcome her, playing music and waving flags – a small reminder of the huge crowds she used to draw as Kathmandu’s Kumari, or living goddess.

“We are excited to have her with us, and we are discussing how to ease her and help her adjust in the new environment,” said the principal Pema Yonjan.

The Kumari is a pre-pubescent girl who lives in a temple palace in the heart of Kathmandu as part of a centuries-old tradition and is considered the embodiment of the Hindu goddess Taleju.

She only leaves the temple 13 times a year on special feast days, when huge crowds of worshippers gather to see her.

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