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Worshipped and then cast aside: the life of a living goddess

Narendra Shrestha of EPA reports from Nepal: Samita Bajracharya was 9 years old when she became a Kumari Devi - a 'living goddess'. The word Kumari literally means virgin in Nepali. The Living Goddesses are young pre-pubescent girls that are considered to be incarnations of the Hindu Goddess of Power, Kali. They are worshipped in Nepal by both Hindus and Buddhists. Samita was appointed the new Kumari of Patan City last year after her predecessor, Chanira Bajracharya, then aged 16, reached puberty, which means that she is considered ritually unclean.

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Purna Shova Bajracharya, the mother of Kumari Samita Bajracharya, puts make-up on her daughter's face for a festival procession at Kumari Ghar in Patan City, Nepal on April 7.

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The Kumari shares a light moment with her mother.

After becoming Kumari in October 2010, Samita could no longer go to school, play outside, or touch her friends - all these things are considered to make her ritually impure. St. Xavier's School has given her a computer on which she can play games and draw with the Paint application. Along with the computer, the management committee of St. Xavier's school has offered the young Kumari a free education. Teachers come to Kumari Ghar, the private residence of the living goddess, and give lessons to the young girl for three hours a day. On the weekend, Samita is able to invite friends to play at her house.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

The Kumari wears make-up before attending a festival at Kumari Ghar in Patan City.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

The Kumari is worshipped by devotees during a festival in Patan City on April 19.

The Kumari is often confined to her home, but there are some days when she is allowed to appear in front of the public. Yet she has to be carried from her from home to the events, never allowing her feet to touch the ground as this is considered unlucky. Devotees take her blessing by offering flowers, money and touching her feet. Everyone from businessmen starting new ventures, students preparing for a big exam, to people just hoping to find strength and improve ailing health visit the Kumari at Kumari Ghar for blessings.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

Offerings placed by devotees at the feet of the Kumari.

Narendra Shrestha / EPA

The Kumari plays with a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy. On the weekend, she is able to invite friends to play at her house.

Samita Bajracharya will remain a Kumari until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body and the Guthi must begin the search for the next young girl to become the Kumari.