In Nepal, 3-year-old Matani Shakya has been declared a living goddess, or kumari.
Work that goddess action, honey!
Why was this little 3-year-old chosen to be a deity????
Matani earned her goddessip through a series of tests, including a fearless night alone in a room populated with the severed heads of sacrificed goats and buffaloes. She also met the aestehtic standards of perfect hair, skin, and teeth.
From now on, she must always wear red, her hair in topknots, a "third eye" painted on her forehead, and live in mostly solitude in a temple in the Nepali capitol. There, she will be worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists as an incarnation of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju and will venture into the public only for religious festivals, when devotees will touch their foreheads to her feet in reverence.
When she reaches sexuality maturity she will be sent back home to her parents and a new goddess will be appointed.
Though the tradition is centuries old and deeply rooted in Nepal's abolished monarchy, critics say it violates child rights. The girls often experience difficulty reentering a life of normalcy and since a superstition claims that those who marry a former kumari die young, the girls are often left without support.
We can sort of imagine little Zahara in that getup - she is certainly a goddess!
[Image via AP Images.]