The goddess or Kumari continues the centuries-old tradition of child deities living among mortals in Nepal where she is worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists alike. At the Hindu festival of rain in July thousands came to pay their respects to the child including the Prime Minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who had to bow and scrape to the child when the pair met.
Despite her lofty status the seven-year-old, who is called Yunika and is said give good luck to all those who lay their eyes on her, still lives with her parents. 'When my daughter was selected as a Kumari, I felt very happy,' her father, Ramesh Bajracharya, said through a translator. 'It's because Kumari is hugely regarded and respected living goddess in Nepal.' To become a Kumari, which means 'unmarried girl' or 'virgin,' children must meet very specific criteria such as sporting 'eyelashes like a cow,' 'thighs like a deer,' and a 'voice as clear as a duck.'
A Mother helps her child to take a blessing from the Living Goddess of Patan. The girl's parents left their jobs in the town of Patan to become full-time carers to their daughter which has proven to be a tricky task as the Kumari are not permitted to leave their homes, except for special occasions, and her feet are never allowed to touch the floor. Yunika's mother has become something of a make-up artist having to apply unique patterns on her face that mark her out as goddess among mere men. As soon as the Kumari hit puberty they revert back to a being normal member of society.
Devotee honours Living Goddess by touching her feet and placing money in a pot. In 2008 Nepal's Supreme Court overruled a petition to end the practice, citing its cultural value although some activists claim the tradition is child labor. The practice's purpose has taken on a great cultural role in Nepal since a 7.8 earthquake rattled the landlocked country in April 2015. Around 8,000 people were killed and the tremor reduced many ancient buildings to ruble.
A Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari, or living goddess, looks on as she takes part in Kumari Puja rituals at the Hanuman Dhoka in Durbar Square in Kathmandu