Sweetheart of the Himalaya

By Jack Olson

In 1977 we began our Nepal trek, and for the first few days we were in the foothills, maybe the 5,000-foot range. Since we were the only trekkers, we created quite a stir. We would almost always camp near a village. Children would come rushing out screaming “Mithai” (candy). That might not be welcome these days, but our trek organizer recommended that we carry some candy. It was hard candy, not Milky Ways. 

Young Nepalese Girl, Kumari or Living Goddess?
A Little Girl Apart – Living Goddess? © Jack Olson

Anyway, the kids would flock around us. Except this little girl stood apart, not just physically, but in the way she was dressed. The other kids ignored her. 

So many things occurred that I had no answer for. But one idea was that she might be a Living Goddess. 

The Living Goddess is called a Kumari, and is considered the sole embodiment of pureness by both Buddhist and Hindu. She would appear on a balcony, was worshipped, and never was among the people. When she reached puberty she was out, reunited with her family, and the community had to find a new Living Goddess. Areas all over the country would promote one of their girls. I wondered: had she been promoted as a Living Goddess?

It touched me deeply but I only know what I saw. There was no one for me to ask why she was different.