Parenting the Living Goddess: Am I Creating a Monster?

8 May

House of the Living Goddess

Parenting a toddler can be so difficult. This week we attended a birthday party for a four-year-old friend. Everything was going well until it was time to leave. It was at that moment, Feisty Spice, my two year old daughter, decided to scream NO! and hole-up in a bouncy house. I finally had to crawl in and drag her out, kicking and screaming. (Her not me) She didn’t want to go.

Embarrassing as this was, I fought the urge to make excuses. She’s jet-lagged.  She didn’t have a nap. She doesn’t usually do this. She….fill in the blank.  And the reason I didn’t make an excuse was because I’d just visited the home of a little girl called the Living Goddess in Kathmandu.

Living Goddess

The Living Goddess

Just as the name implies, the Living Goddess is a little girl who is the incarnation of the Hindu Goddess, Durga. Throughout the years there have been several child goddesses, who are all chosen around the age of four.

Mythology tells a story about a young goddess who is befriended by the king. For disputed reasons, either because the queen was jealous or because the king made advances toward her, she went away. But, she promised to return in the form of a young girl.

Because of this, the Nepalese have an elaborate system to choose a girl who houses the spirit of Durga. After a series of trials and rituals that include leaving the young girl alone in a room full of decapitated water buffaloes, she is declared the Living Goddess, and the spirit of Durga comes to dwell inside of her. The girl is removed from her home and family to live in the middle of Kathmandu where she is precisely cared for, worshipped, and fawned over. People pray over her. Bow to her.  Leave offerings to her. She can do no wrong, and her every whim is catered to.  She is even visited by the king who receives a blessing from her. (And this is a girl as young as 4!)

Living Goddess

Living Goddess

Unfortunately, all good things must end. When the girl reaches puberty and begins to menstruate, her days as a goddess are over. She is returned to her family, given a small compensation, and left to live a life of a normal mortal. Ugh! What a rude awakening! All of a sudden, you aren’t perfect.

It is a controversial practice, and it left me thinking about my own parenting. If I make excuses for my daughter, assuring everyone around that she, like the goddess, can do no wrong, I’m doing a grave disservice to her. I mean, how can she learn that her actions have consequences, if I act like she’s faultless?

And like that little goddess who is thrown out when she starts her period, that’s exactly what would happen to Feisty Spice when she enters the work force.  Her boss isn’t going to cater to her every whim and think she’s perfect. And if she acts like she’s superior, I have no doubt the boss would kick her to the curb along with her baggage full of self-importance.

I’m sure the parents of the Living Goddess receive a multitude of benefits for having a daughter that’s perfect.  And likewise, I would love to have the admiration of my friends for being such a fabulous example of motherhood. But, I have to admit, sometimes my child’s behavior, STINKS!  As much as I’d like her to be perfect, I don’t want to create a little monster who can’t be wrong.  All I know is that I am going to do my best to correct bad behavior and not make excuses for it. I just hope you won’t judge me too harshly when my daughter won’t share with yours. Despite my best efforts, or hopefully because of them, she isn’t a Living Goddess.

Countries Visited to Date: 98

Number of Countries Left: 106

Country to Visit Next: Russia (I’m packing already!)

(Living Goddess Photo #1: Courtesy: Wikimedia: Photographer: Manjari Shrestha)

(Living Goddess Photo #2: Courtesy: Photographer: Izahorsky)

You can find other travel blogs at:

18 Responses to “Parenting the Living Goddess: Am I Creating a Monster?”

  1. Kathy Ver Eecke (@WorkingForWonka) May 8, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    It’s amazing to me how we can see something like this as so foreign, and in the country of origin it’s viewed as commonplace. What in the world would all that attention and praise and accolades do to a young mind, not yet formed. You draw a great parallel with the struggles parents face every day. Nice post!

  2. redeyefamily May 8, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Thanks, Kathy. I’m not sure how you can create a sense of normalcy for a child after she’s no longer a goddess. It would be so difficult. Likewise, I’m afraid of creating a goddess who can’t stand up to difficulties later on in life. It was a good lesson for me on what NOT to do.

  3. Lisa May 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the Living Goddess girls – life must be very disappointing after having been treated like a deity for most of your childhood. Going through that type of lifestyle adjustment during adolescence must be devastating.

  4. redeyefamily May 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I can’t imagine what they go through afterwards, either. There is a book by one of the girls. It is called From Goddess to Mortal. I haven’t read it, but I know she discusses her life after being a goddess. If I’m not mistaken she is the only goddess who has ever graduated from college. Most of the girls return home completely uneducated. I think they can get some sort of schooling these days, but with all of their other duties, I don’t know how good an education they receive. So, not only are they not perfect afterwards, they are uneducated, too. A double whammy.

  5. Mary @ The World Is A Book May 10, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I love learning about all these unique customs and traditions from you and this by far, was the most interesting. It is so sad to read about these girls and I can just imagine the blows to their self-esteem after their reign. Is it even sadder that I thought of the 80’s band group Menudo when you mentioned they get cast aside and replaced once hitting puberty? =) Sorry, had to tell you that. It’s so wonderful that you realize not to make excuses for your kids’ behavior and know where to draw the line. I learned that early on with my daughter too. I cringe every time I’m in the company of parents who think the world revolves around their little offspring.

  6. redeyefamily May 10, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    We’re showing our age, Mary. I, too, remember Menudo. I love that reference! It made me laugh.

  7. Mara Gorman May 10, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    I love the connections in this post – and that fact that you just taught me something I didn’t know about another culture while also writing about your two-year-old and a bouncy house! (And I’m pretty sure that this post may be the only one on the Internet to contain both the word “bouncy house” and “Nepalese”.

  8. redeyefamily May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Thanks Mara. That’s so funny. I find it interesting how we view our experiences based on our own culture. To me, that’s what makes foreign places so exciting.

  9. Tat (@muminsearch) May 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    What a fascinating story. I feel sorry for those girls, too. The rituals they have to go through,,,, and with all the adoration, the life of a Goddess must be a lonely one.

    I don’t like making excuses for my children for a different reason. Yes, it is our responsibility to set boundaries and teach them how to deal with their feelings in a way that is mindful of others. But not making excuses also sends them a message that we are not ashamed of them, we accept them for who they are and every child needs to know that.

  10. redeyefamily May 24, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    You make a good point. It is important for kids to know that we love them even if their bahavior isn’t very lovable at the time.

  11. wanderingeducators June 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    i love this – we have an article about this by our nepal editor on our site. i can’t imagine, to be honest. and you’re right – making excuses is not a good thing. teaching and modeling good things – and practicing honesty – is always a good thing.

  12. redeyefamily June 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Thanks Jessie. It’s very hard, though. It would be much easier to make excuses. Sometimes, I just have to bite my tongue! I’ll have to check out the article on your site! Since visiting Nepal, I’ve been very interested in other people’s perception about the Living Goddess.

  13. femmefrugality July 6, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I wouldn’t worry. She’s 2! Anyone who’s judging you has never had a two-year-old.

    That custom is crazy. It would probably ruin you as a person, but you’d also get to live every little girl’s dream for a few years and be treated like a princess. Having to spend time with decapitated water buffalos, though….Trade-offs, trade-offs.

  14. redeyefamily July 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! I keep reminding myself that most everyone has gone through some sort of public temper tantrum. As you know, it’s still hard to swallow.

  15. juicebox2go July 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    I remember before my son was born seeing kids throw fits and saying “I will NOT have that! My child will not behave that way!” Bahahahahahahahahahahaha. Now I know better. They all behave like that at some point. If they don’t something is wrong. I’m with femmefrugality, anyone who’s had a two year old understands.

    Now when I see another person’s kid throw a fit, I like that parent just a little more. I think it’s a kinship thing.

  16. redeyefamily July 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Absolutely, it IS a kinship thing. I just hope the other person knows I’m not judging them. I have no room to judge!

  17. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) July 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    I cant imagine taking a four year and putting her into such a job! It would be fun for a day (to be the living goddess) but for days after days, and then be given back to your family? Gosh what that girl must go through…..doesnt feel right?
    And my kids are so not perfect! They scream, and throw the biggest wobblys when they cant get there own way – my way of dealing with it….walking away, pray it finishes quickly and then speaking with them once its over🙂
    All the best with your daughter – and yep you are the best Mum for letting her just be her🙂

  18. redeyefamily July 13, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Walking away sure does help. Funny how they stop when there is no audience!

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