A goddess among people
Preeti Shakya has only a hazy recollection of her first year of being a Kumari living goddess at the age of three and a half. She had no inkling at the time of the importance of her position or the reverence with which she was regarded.
Shakya became the royal Kumari in 2001 and lived at the official residence of the living goddess in Basantapur for eight years until the end of her tenure in 2009. During that time, her parents visited her once every week, not as family, but as worshippers.
When they visited, Shakya addressed her parents, as per protocol, as she would any other devotee. “My caretaker and his family became my family,” remembers Shakya, now 22 and an undergraduate student of business.
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She keeps in touch with Gautam Shakya and his family, visiting her Kumari-days home as often as she can. She meets even more regularly with Gautam’s sister Durga Shakya, whom she calls Durga phupu. “I am very close to her,” Shakya says.
When Shakya returned to her old family home at age 11, she knew no life other than that of a goddess and found it difficult to adjust. She says, “I had forgotten how to walk because I wasn’t used to walking as a Kumari, I was carried around everywhere.” On the streets, she felt like people were staring at her, and the vehicles that passed frightened her. “I was seeing a car for the first time in my life, and it was surreal and scary.”
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Shakya found it difficult in school, too. But the teacher introduced her to the class as a former Kumari, and her classmates were excited to know her. “Everyone called me over to sit with them in class,” she recalls. “They would ask me lots of questions.” Unlike her peers, she was not scolded or punished by teachers.
Nepali Times first featured Preeti Shakya during her first year as Kumari in 2001 and again in 2004. Now, over a decade after the end of her tenure, everything has returned to normal.
Shakya is a fourth-year Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS) student at Prime College, and will decide what is next after graduation.
Since pictures of Shakya as Kumari are still around, people occasionally recognise her on the streets, and that makes her happy.
Shakya looks back at her time as Kumari with fondness. “For someone to be the Kumari, her birth chart has to match the King’s. It is a matter of pride for me that out of so many girls, I was chosen. It still makes me feel special.”
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