Sajani Shakya is a very special little girl from Nepal. She was, until recently, considered a living embodiment of the great Hindu goddess Kali, and worshipped as such. She was one of only twelve Buddhist girls selected for the honor of being one of Kali's avatars (the privilege of which is removed after the girls' first menstruation, when they are no longer posessing the virginal purity required), also known as "kumaris". Because the kumaris are selected from Buddhist castes to be the embodiment of a Hindu goddess, they reflect extreme religious tolerance and the harmony Buddhism and Hinduism share in Nepal. Of all the kumaris, Sajani Shakya was what people would consider the most normal. She went to school, played with classmates, and lived with her family. She has aspirations of being a teacher.
However, her life changed with the filming of a British documentary entitled Living Goddesses. She came to the United States to promote the documentary, and was stripped of her title. Nepalese elders say that this is because 1) as one of the kumaris, she is not allowed to leave the country, and 2) the trip into the United States tainted her purity. In a society where you are only a goddess until your first menstrual cycle makes you unclean, purity is everything.
I can understand where they are coming from. The United States is not exactly the most religious place on the planet- most everything here is secular. School, work, daily activities, food: most of these things in America tend to revolve around secular interests. However, just because a girl (albeit a divine one) leaves a country to visit another and promote a documentary about her native country's traditions, does that mean she is automatically impure? What about spreading awareness of the tradition where it might find new strength? What about preserving the cultural heritage? I wonder if the Nepalese elders sincerely thought about all the aspects of this trip, or if they simply decided out-of-hand that the girl was no longer worthy.
Besides, as mere mortals, who's to say they can take away what a god or goddess has given someone? If Kali has been incarnated in this girl, I'd say it's Kali's decision whether the girl has been sullied, not a mortal's, no matter how sage and wise said mortal may be.
To learn more, check out the following links:
Nepalese 'Living Goddess' Loses Status
Tim Worstall: Sajani Shakya
NPR: Child Goddess Fired After U.S. Visit Taints Purity
Sajani Shakya- Child Goddess Touring in U.S.A.
Sajani Shakya- Child Goddess- Fired!
Being a Living Goddess Has Its Advantages for a 10-Year-Old Girl