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Apotheosis & Reversion

The 22-year-old living goddess of Nepal has returned to a normal life!
Preeti Shakya was selected as Kumari Devi (Child Goddess) at the age of three as per the local tradition. It is widely believed in the Himalayan country that Kumari Devi is another form of Goddess Durga or the ‘warrior goddess’, mythological stories about who centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and duty of the good. However, the lives of these Kumari Devis are preposterous!
Preeti served as Kumari Devi for around 19 years. Immediately after she experienced her first menstruation, she was replaced by another Kumari Devi. The priests also allowed Preeti to live a normal life (like other girls) after she attained adulthood.

Preeti Shakya, the Child Goddess

Talking to the media, the Nepali girl has said that it was really a tough job, as a Kumari Devi has to perform some difficult religious rituals. She revealed that the priests had selected her as Kumari Devi after considering 32 physical features, including the colour of her eyes and hairs, voice, gestures etc. Also, there are some other yardsticks… For a living goddess, it is important to remain unperturbed even after witnessing animal sacrifices, sharing a room with a snake and seeing blood!
Preeti claimed that her smile had made her the most popular Kumari Devi of Nepal. In fact, her photos had been sold to thousands of foreign tourists. Still, her life was painful as she was denied to live with her parents! The priests allowed her parents to meet Preeti once a week. She and her elder sister used to meet only on Saturdays. Moreover, she had no other option, but to wear a red-and-gold-coloured dress all the time with a high makeup (till she was 11 years of age) and she was allowed to leave her palace and to meet common people once a year!

Preeti stated that although the concerned authorities used to take a very good care of her, a school teacher scolded her one day, helping her realise that she was not a goddess, but a human being. Now, most of Preeti’s days are spent between books and her college friends. “I don’t have much free time as I have to study a lot but I am happy nowadays when I think that I can get out of my house anytime I want,” she said.
According to Preeti, her mother Reena Shakya was worried about her as she thought that it would be difficult for her daughter to live a ‘normal’ life. Now, Preeti wants to be a Thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton and silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala) artist, like her father!

The 22-yer-old girl confided that she still has no boyfriend. Although there is no rule which prevents a former goddess to marry, superstition holds that husbands of ex-Kumari Devi die early. Chunda Bajracharya, a researcher on Newar culture, is of the opinion that the tradition has not affected the individual rights of the Kumari Devis. Instead, the tradition has elevated their social status.

Preeti Shakya with her mother

The researcher has urged people to let Preeti enjoy her quest for freedom and independence…

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