The Royal Asiatic Society presents:
Isabella Tree – The Living Goddess
In a small medieval palace on Kathmandu’s Durbar Square lives Nepal’s famous Living Goddess—a child chosen from the Buddhist caste of goldsmiths whose role is to watch over the country and protect its people. Once she attains puberty, another girl takes her place.
To Nepalis she is the embodiment of Devi and for centuries the kings of Nepal have sought her blessing to rule. Legends swirl about her. But the facts remain shrouded in secrecy and closely guarded by the Living Goddess’s priests and caretakers. Why are Buddhist girls worshipped by Hindu monarchs? Are the initiation rituals as macabre as they are rumoured to be? And what happens to Living Goddesses once they attain puberty?
Using myth, religion, history and her unprecedented access to the priests, caretakers and ex-Living Godessess, Isabella Tree takes us deep into this hidden world. Through it she draws a vivid portrait of the girl-goddess, the beliefs and practices of traditional Nepal, and the uneasy journey it now makes towards modernity. Deeply felt and written over many years of travel and research, The Living Goddess is a profound, compelling and extremely moving book.
Isabella Tree is a writer and journalist based in the UK. She is the author of three other non-fiction books and writes for publications such as Granta, National Geographic Magazine, the Sunday Times and the Observer. She has been travelling regularly to Nepal since the 1980s.
Introduction by Dr Alison Otha (Director, RAS):