“When the 6-year-old goddess wept for four days, it was viewed as a terrible omen for Nepal, and her tears appeared to have foreshadowed a national tragedy.” E. Schmall, The New York Times, July 23, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Ex-Goddess Works to Reform 700-Year Tradition. Her M.B.A. Helps. Emily Schmall, The New York Times, July 23, 2022
“On the last day of her crying, June 1, 2001, the crown prince of Nepal killed nine members of the royal family, including his parents, King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, before shooting himself.
More than 20 years later… that girl who had been worshiped as a goddess was now a woman concerned with more earthly matters: Chanira Bajracharya, a freshly minted M.B.A., was handling loan applications at the financial services firm where she works.
Her ability to land a corporate job has set her apart from most other former kumari, women who in their prepubescent youth were worshiped as the living embodiment of a Hindu goddess — but most of whom were denied education.
‘People used to think because she’s a goddess, she knows everything,” said Ms. Bajracharya, 27. “And who dares to teach a goddess?’
Since the 14th century, girls as young as 2 have been chosen from Buddhist families from the Newar community living in the Kathmandu Valley… The kumari, Ms. Bajracharya said, act as a syncretic symbol between Hinduism and Buddhism, the largest faiths in Nepal, a country of about 30 million…Most kumari before Ms. Bajracharya, including her aunt, Dhana Kumari Bajracharya, received no formal education…Ms. Bajracharya is working to change that, urging the current crop of young goddesses to study as she did, which she believes will not only help them, but also help shield an institution that critics argue deprives girls of their childhoods and human rights...Ms. Bajracharya, who remains a staunch champion of the tradition, had favorable feelings about her unusual childhood…’Those moments were the best moments of my life,’ she said…And she rejected any notion that the role had violated her rights.
‘People used to think that as a goddess, we have a very secluded life, we don’t get to speak with others, we don’t get time to play, we’re not allowed to smile,’ she said. ‘All those myths that have been so popular, sometimes I get so irritated.’ Still, no one considers it an easy role…Ms. Bajracharya’s reign as the living goddess of Patan, from 2001 to 2010, saw some of Nepal’s greatest political change, from the palace killings her tears were believed to have foretold, to the Maoist insurgency that intensified afterward. In 2008, Nepal abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and became a democratic republic.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The 6-year-old goddess wept for four days.
- This was viewed as a terrible omen for Nepal.
- More than 20 years later, the young woman sits in a nondescript office in Patan.
- Chanira Bajracharya, has a freshly minted M.B.A.
- There are other former kumari, women who in their prepubescent youth were worshiped as the living embodiment of a Hindu goddess.
- She was speaking at the family home in Patan, where she had performed her divine duties for 10 years.
- The tradition centers on the story of a Hindu goddess, Taleju, who gave counsel to a king.
- A dozen children are bestowed the title of kumari at any one time.
- Ms. Bajracharya, remains a staunch champion of the tradition.
- People used to think that as a goddess, we have a very secluded life.
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
Her days/day were often spend/spent receiving a long line of visitors, who would kneel/knee at her tiny feet, which were/was never supposed to/too touch the ground outside. The devotees would place offerings/offering of cash and fruit into brass bowls as, wordlessly, Chanira would stretch out a/an arm covered in/on red satin, smudging vermilion paste, a/an religious marker called a tika, on their foreheads as a blessing.
Reading Comprehension Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
The ___of one___ were ___with ___of her in full___, a small girl with brightly painted lips and eyes lined with kohl. In one___, she is looking down imperiously at the last___of Nepal, Gyanendra, the assassin’s brother.
WORD LIST: king, photograph, kumari regalia, covered, walls, room, photographs,
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
III Post Reading
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- After reading this article, would you like to be a goddess? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, is this a positive or negative practice?
- What is the name of the 6-year-old goddess?
- What tragedy did the young goddess foresee in June 2001?
- Where does Kathmandu work today?
- Why are most of the goddesses denied an education?
- Approximately when did this practice of choosing girls to be goddesses begin?
- What happens to the children after they lose their divinity?
- What are the criticisms of this practice?
- How is Ms. Bajracharya working to change the future of young goddesses?
- Does Ms. Bajracharya believe that her rights were violated as a child goddess?
- What did Nepal’s Supreme Court state about the Kumari tradition?
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.
- List 3 questions that you would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.