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Nepal's new three-year-old goddess

2008-10-08 07:50:57 GMT2008-10-08 15:50:57 (Beijing Time) Reuters

Yesterday Matina Shakya was an ordinary little girl - now she's is a living goddess.

The three-year-old is Nepal's new Kumari.

She was enthroned during a centuries old ritual which has survived the country's recent political upheaval.

The new Moaist-led coalition abolished the monarchy but not Kumaris.

Matina's father is honoured but sad.

(SOUNDBITE) (Nepali) MATINA'S FATHER PRATAPMAN SHAKYA SAYING:

"We feel happy to have her as a national goddess, but at the same time we are terribly sorry to let her leave our caring hands."

Several cities in Kathmandu valley have living goddesses.

But Matina will be the most powerful.

She'll live in an ornate temple until she reaches puberty and make regular appearances at a carved window.

Kumaris are major tourist attractions and are considered by many as incarnations of the goddess Kali.

They must have perfect eyes, teeth and hair and be fearless.

The selection process is a secret and there are tales of children spending a night in the dark or walking through chopped buffalo heads to show courage.

Matina's family says that's a myth - they say they simply sent her horoscope to the selection panel.

Either way for the next seven or eight years Matina's life will be far from normal - and there are those who wish Kumaris would suffer the same fate as the monarchy.

Sonia Legg, Reuters.

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