National Geographic : 2015 Jun
Living Goddesses 87 that would be imposed on the family.” A kumari is an onerous responsibility for all, one that would weigh heaviest on Ramesh as the family’s breadwinner. She must wear special clothes and makeup every day and have new festival dresses made of expensive cloth at least twice a year. A room in the house—a precious commodity in the overcrowded city—must be set aside as a puja, or worship, room with a throne where the goddess can receive devo- tees. The family must perform nitya puja—daily worship rituals—before her every morning. She cannot go outside, except on festival occasions, Being chosen for the position of kumari is regarded as the highest honor. and then she has to be carried, either in some- one’s arms or in a palanquin, so that her feet don’t touch the ground. She can eat only certain foods and no taboo items, such as hen’s eggs or chicken. Everything in the house has to be kept ritually pure. No one in contact with her can wear leather. Above all, the kumari must not bleed. It’s believed that the spirit of the goddess, the shakti, that enters the girl’s body when she becomes a kumari, will leave her if she loses any blood. Even an accidental graze could end her reign. A living goddess is always dismissed when she gets her first period.