During her 10 years as a child goddess in Nepal, Chanira Bajracharya spent her days receiving long lines of visitors. They would kneel at her feet and place offerings of cash and fruit into brass bowls as she wordlessly stretched out an arm covered in red satin, smudging vermilion paste on their foreheads as a ritual blessing.
Now the girl worshipped as a kumari—the living embodiment of a Hindu goddess—is a woman who works in a nondescript office in Patan, an ancient city a few miles from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. There, Bajracharya, who has a master’s degree in business administration, handles loan applications at a financial services firm.
Her ability to land a corporate job has set her apart from most other former kumari, most of whom were denied education.
“People used to think, ‘Because she’s a goddess, she knows everything,’” says Bajracharya, now 27. “And who dares to teach a goddess?”
The walls of her family home in Patan, where she performed her divine duties from the age of 6 until she was 15, are covered with photographs of her in full kumari regalia, a small girl with brightly painted lips and eyes lined with kohl, a traditional black eyeliner.