18 June 2014 Last updated at 15:35 ET
Nepal's living goddess who still has to do homeworkBy Sonia Narang PRI's The World, Nepal
Samita Bajracharya is a 12-year-old Nepalese girl who lives with her family, studies hard, and enjoys playing a Nepali version of the lute. But until recently she was also worshipped by people who believed she was a reincarnated goddess.
|Samita Bajracharya, when she was a Kumari.|
A narrow wooden staircase leads up to the second floor, where the goddess spends much of her childhood. She's called a Kumari, which means "young, unmarried girl".
She's worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal, who believe she's a reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga.
I got to know the mother of this Kumari - Nepal has a few of them - after several visits to her house.
How did it feel when her daughter, Samita, was chosen to be a Kumari, I asked?
"I felt both happy and sad," she says. "On one hand, I felt happy because when your daughter becomes god, having a god in the home is a delightful thing. But I also got scared because I wasn't sure if we would be able to follow all the rules."
There are many rules. For one, Samita's mother has to apply special makeup to her daughter's face in intricate designs. The girl isn't allowed to go outside except for festivals. On those occasions, her feet must not touch the ground. That means someone has to carry the young goddess.
Furthermore, the Kumari is not permitted to speak to anyone besides her family and close friends.
The best way to find out what life is like for a child goddess is to talk to a former Kumari. I call Samita's predecessor, Chanira Bajracharya (no relation), and she agrees to an interview in her home.
|Chanira Bajracharya in 2007, when she was about 12 years old.|
We sit on the floor of the dark chamber where she spent a decade praying and blessing visitors.
I expect we'll do the interview in Nepali, but when I ask her a question, she starts speaking fluently in English. She tells me that she learned the language by reading newspapers during her Kumari days.
"When I was a goddess, I used to peek through the holes of windows," Chanira says.
She's now a 19-year-old business student, and looks like any ordinary teenager in her fashionable green T-shirt and black trousers. She became a Kumari when she was just five years old.