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Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 17:49 UK

Maoists appoint 'living goddess'

Shreeya Bajracharya is taken around the city on a chariot, during the second day of the Indra Jatra festival in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, Sept. 15, 2008
The new 'living goddess' wants to be a nurse when she is older

Nepal's new Maoist-led government has authorised the appointment of a six-year-old girl to be a "living goddess" in the temple town of Bhaktapur.

For centuries "Kumaris" in several towns in the Kathmandu valley were appointed by the head priest of the monarchy.

This is the first time the appointment has been carried out by anyone else.

The monarchy was abolished after the Maoists, who are atheists, won elections earlier this year.

'Eyelashes like a cow'

Deepak Bahadur Pandey, a senior official of the state-run Trust Corporation that selected Shreeya Bajracharya, told Reuters news agency: "The government authorised us to appoint the Kumari and we have done that for the first time."

Kumaris must pass ritual tests and have 32 beautiful physical attributes.

Shreeya, a farmer's daughter, was chosen for having, among other things, "eyelashes like a cow" and a "voice as soft and clear as a duck", Keshab Bahadur Shrestha, another member of the Trust Corporation, told the AFP news agency.

"Just because we are now a republic and no longer have a king or royal priest, does not mean we should end our traditions."

Nepal's Kumaris live lives of extreme privilege but also isolation.

They must stay in a special house and are worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus until the onset of menstruation. That is deemed to make them human, so they retire.

Shreeya's predecessor left her post early at the age of 11.

She had upset senior priests when she travelled to the United States to promote a new film about Kumaris.

She was sacked but later reinstated for a while before giving up the post.

Shreeya told Reuters she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. She is fond of biscuits and rice, her aides said.

Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the government to safeguard the human rights of Kumaris, after complaints the girls are unable to have a normal life.


SEE ALSO
Nepal's 'living goddess' retires
02 Mar 08 |  South Asia
Living goddess makes rare outing
27 Sep 04 |  South Asia
Nepal goddess a rare sight indeed
05 Sep 03 |  South Asia
Nepal chooses new living goddess
15 Jul 01 |  South Asia
Country profile: Nepal
28 Aug 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nepal
24 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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