I learned something on cbc.ca today, and it has blown my mind ever since. To get it off my chest, I am going to share it with you.
In Nepal, which is a country in Asia, near India, the people are Hindus. If you don't know anything about Hinduism, there are close to 33 million gods that are worshiped. It is a very idolatrous religion. In Nepal, they have what they call a "living goddess", or the Kumari, which translates as "virgin". The Buddhist priests search for a young girl from the ages 2-4, and she must fit 32 different requirements to become this goddess, things from physical requirements to temperment. Once they are satisfied that a girl fits these requirements, they go through a four day process of purifying her, and after she is purified, they announce that she is now prepared to be indwelt by the goddess Durga. She is now a "living goddess". She moves to live in the temple, isolated from family and friends, and surrounded by servants who perform at her beck and call. Because it is Durga's nature to be sedate, this young girl will not necessarily be bossy with her servants, but they must guide her as she grows up in a manner that allows her to still be above them. Because her entire body is considered to be sacred, she is never allowed to walk outside when she makes public appearances, but rather is carried around by servants in a palenquin. Because she is considered to be the living form of the goddess, people actually worship her, and seek blessing from her by touching her feet. When she makes her public appearances, she is painted with elaborate make-up and jewelry representing her power, not to mention a round sticker in the middle of her forehead representing her perceptivity. She will remain the Kumari until her first menses,or if she becomes injured and loses much blood, as it is the flowing of blood that signifies the exit of the goddess. At this point the Buddhist priests will find another Kumari to replace her. There are Kumaris in many of the major cities in Nepal, and the one in the capital is considered to be the Royal Kumari.
Consider the implications of this on the young girl that is chosen. She is isolated from family and close relationships, and after her term is up, is expected to pick up life where she left off. The thing that scares me is the belief that the goddess actually lives within her. I wonder if something does enter her, an evil spirit or something. I don't know, but this whole situation is so frightening and disturbing. It is so far from what God intended, and reminds me of how people considered the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt to be a living deity as well. I still don't know how to deal with all of this, except to pray for this country that is so lost in the dark.
For more information, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Goddess