Gypsy's Travels

Monday, March 3, 2008

Job Opening

Three medieval towns in the Kathmandu valley worship pre-pubescent girls as the living embodiment of the goddess Taleju.

There is a job opening for a Kumari (Goddess) in Bhaktapur, a town near the capital of Nepal. Sajani Shakya, age 11, has just retired from the post so the committee is searching for a new Goddess. Qualifications were not posted but can be gleaned. Sajani was chosen when she was two years old, a fact that indicates there might be some age discrimination. Also the position calls for a pre-pubescent female, that leaves out the guys. Applicants can count on early retirement, mandatory at the onset of puberty. There is no mention of whether or not this is a "Royal Kumari" position. Such a position would require the chosen one to bless Nepal's king once a year and be confined to a crumbling, ornate palace in the historic heart of old Kathmandu.

In Bhaktapur, the local Kumari goes to a local school and lives with her family. She is paraded for worship once a year during the festival of Dasain. Not a particularly stressful schedule, but there is no mention of reimbursement for relocation expenses.Sajani caused quite a stir and lost her job for a while when she visited the U.S. Typically, Kumari are not allowed to travel. After much controversy, she underwent a "cleansing ceremony" and regained her status as Kumari.

Now there is a job opening. Sajani's family opted to participate in another traditional ceremony that prompted her retirement. Last month, Sajani was married to a fruit.

Sajani's father explained,

"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."

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