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Nepal's 'Living Goddess' Unscathed in Earthquake


Nepal’s Kumari, or living goddess, watches the Rato Machindranath chariot festival in Lalitpur, Nepal, April 24, 2015.

When the deadly earthquake battered Nepal last week, major temples and statues in Kathmandu’s Darbar Square were leveled, but the home of a 9-year-old girl worshipped as a living goddess remained almost unscathed.

"She protected us," said Durga Shakya, the caretaker of the Kumari house, who like all her entourage is from the Newar community indigenous to the Kathmandu valley.

Kumari, the city’s living child goddess, is the best known of the girls who are worshipped as the symbol of the fearsome Hindu goddess Durga until they reach puberty, after which they are replaced.

Kumari lives in isolation in her small palace and emerges only on feast days, when she is paraded through Kathmandu in ceremonial dress.

“Look around, the Kumari home is intact," Shakya said. "There is a little crack on the other side, but otherwise nothing has happened. Even inside, nothing has fallen down. Everything is fine.”

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake has killed more than 7,000 people, and the toll is expected to rise.

The United Nations said more than 8 million people had been affected by the earthquake and at least 2 million had been displaced.