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A Nepal Tradition Turns Toddlers Into Living Goddesses

In Nepal, there’s a tradition far different than anything in the Western world. It brings the spiritual world to life by taking young girls and turning them into Kumari, or living goddesses.

Some of these girls are chosen right after birth, while others are picked at an older age. By tradition, there are two goddesses — one Buddhist and one Hindu — that enter the chosen girl, turning her into this living supernatural power.

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Unlike others their age, these girls don’t go to school. Instead, a Kumari (which translates to virgin) has thousands of worshippers who come to see her. They are dressed up as seen below and expected to sit motionless during their worship.

“The idea is that the goddess inhabits them and gives them that self-control and it’s the goddess who is there at that point,” photographer Stephanie Sinclair explains in the National Geographic video.

But this lifestyle doesn’t last a lifetime: These girls retire when they hit puberty and begin life as an ordinary person.

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“The community wants this tradition to stay,” Sinclair says. “But many of them wanted it to happen but just not with their kid because of the risks involved, and the financial burden, and the hard work it is to kind of always have to be doing this.”