Many many years ago...
The king received advice on ruling his kingdom by a wise and powerful goddess. One of these times, the queen interrupted the king and the goddess. The goddess became very angry, and told the king she would no longer help him run his kingdom. The king begged for forgiveness until the Goddess finally gave the king specific instructions: “I will come back, but in a different form. Find a beautiful pre-pubescent girl and worship her as you worship me, and she will guide you.”
The Kumari of Bungmati
Kinjal Bajracharya is 6 years old.
Kinjal Bajracharya sits at her desk waiting for her school in Bungmati, Nepal, to begin on May 23, 2016.
Her favorite color is pink. She enjoys juice and junk food, going to school and playing with her friends, working on her school work and playing with her hula hoop.
Kinjal plays chase with her classmates on May 23, 2016.
Kinjal's classmates line up to play rhyme games on May 23, 2016.
Kinjal plays alone with her hula hoop on the steps of her home in Bungmati, Nepal on May 25, 2016.
Kinjal Bajracharya is also a goddess.
Kinjal At six years old, Kinjal is worshiped as the divine virgin goddess by Budhist and Hindu alike in the village of Bungmati, a small village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Its a hundreds of years-old tradition unique to only Nepal.
Kinjal receives her crown during a family celebration on May 26, 2016. The crown is unique to the Kumari of Bungmati. Kumari traditional only wear tight buns tide with red ribbon.
Kinjal spins in her traditional gown during a family celebration on May 26, 2016. The Kumari of Bungmati is known for her healing powers. Visitors receive blessings for good health.
Kinjal plays with her cousins during a family celebration on May 26, 2016.
There are at least 12 Kumari in Kathmandu, but only three are funded by the government. Nepal’s national or Royal Kumari, otherwise known as the Kumari of Basantapur. is the most celebrated and widely worshiped. Behind her are the Patan Kumari and the Kumari of Bucklapur.
Kinjal is not funded by the government. All of the responsibilities and expenses of being a Kumari fall on her family.
Kinjal drinks milk tea before getting ready for the day on May 25, 2016. Every morning Kinjal is worshiped by her parents and grandparents on a small throne located in her room.
Kinjal's mother applies the tika and cat-eye eyeliner that is tradition for a Kumari on May 25, 2017. Kinjal's mother spends an hour each morning preparing her daughter for the day. As a kumari, Kinjal is forbidden to be seen in public without her customary hair, make-up and red dresses.
Everyday her mother must dress her in red, fix her hair, and apply the traditional cat-eye make up and tika. Twice a day she must be given offerings and worshiped. Her family must hold expensive ceremonies four times a year and buy expensive makeup, garb and jewelry.
"Sometimes we get confused," Man Ratna, Kinjal's father, said. We don't know whether to to worship her as a goddess or yell at her to do her homework"
Kinjal plays on the window of her bedroom on May 23, 2016. Kinjal spends hours gazing out her window and shouting to the neighbor children below.
Kinjal is restricted. She is unable to leave her village, wear the same clothing as her classmates, or share food with her friends. She also is treated differently. Many children are forbidden to play will Kinjal in fear that they may fall under the Kumari’s curse.
"What worries us the most is that she might think 'it is a bad thing to be a Kumari. If I wasn't a Kumari, I could play with the other children," Ratna said.
Kinjal stands in line for morning prayer before school on May 23, 2016. As the kumari, Kinjal is not under the same uniform restrictions as her classmates. She's restricted to the three red dresses her family owns.
Kinjal watches the neighborhood children play without her on May 24, 2016. Many times if a child within the neighborhood falls ill, the child is thought to have been cursed by the Kumari. Many parents warn their children to avoid Kinjal.
Carrying out the Kumari tradition has been passed down from generation to generation. Once Kinjal loses her firs tooth, her younger sister will take over the role of Kumari in the family.
Kinjal plays with her little sister, Kripa, and her grandfather, Ratna Muni, on May 21, 2016.
Kinjal smiles at her younger sister, the next Kumari, during a family celebration on May 26, 2016.
After years of being a goddess, Kinjal will return to mortal status. It's a transition that an be shocking to a Kumari.
Kinjal recieves food offerings from her grandmother during a family celebration on May 25, 2016. Tradition mandates Kinjal must always be presented with food before her family. Her food must also always be held higher, and her seat must always be softer.
Kinjal peeks out the window to watch a family celebration on May 26, 2016.
Although the they feel honored to keep up such an important transition, Kinjal's parents wish things could be different for both Kinjal and her little sister.
Kinjal naps with her younger sister on May 25, 2016.
If I were able to choose, I would like my daughter to be a regular child," Ranta said.
Kinjal poses in her window on May 24, 2016.