Photographer's Note

Swarms of Nikon-toting press photographers and tourists alike smother the young living goddess as she emerges from her cloistered sanctum sanctorum during the annual Nepali Hindu festival of Indra Jatra. She is then seated upon a giant ceremonial chariot (Juggernaut style) and wheeled about Dhabar Square for a couple of hours - only once a year - then to return to her pampered seclusion. 'Kumari Devi' is Nepali for 'the virgin goddess of Durga'.

After she reaches puberty a council of Shakya Newari Brahmins assembles to select another living goddess, her successor. Arcane tests and mantras are used for the mystical selection - not unlike that of choosing the next Dali Lama, by the estimation of some observers.

It is said that finding a husband for a retired Kumari is a daunting task since marrying a former goddess probably entails a high degree of 'maintenance' on the part of the spouse - especially when doing the dishes and on Valentine's Day.

Since she doesn't come out of her sanctuary (the Kumari Ghar) until very late evening on this auspicious day and because she's surrounded by legions of guards and priests, trying to get a decent picture is almost impossible, especially without a flash. As a foreigner with a large camera and a smattering of the Nepali language, the hordes of security officers and police let me get about as close as anyone possibly could to 'Her Divinity'; maybe they thought I was foreign press. I handed out a few packets of betel-nut pan to the security cops and they let me cross the guarded blockade. But I only had an instant for the shot.

Her picture was on the front pages of Kathmandu's newspapers the following day, but interestingly, none of the official press got this close. Her story is fascinating:

technical notes:

Image taken in dark twighlight at ISO 3200 ASA and focal length at 24.0mm.

I used CS3's noise filter selectively to help as much as possible though I know that third party vendors produce superior software. Some vignetting was applied in CS3 Camera RAW and of course judicious use of Unsharp Mask. PP in this image was a real challenge. Was it overdone? Saturation?

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Additional Photos by Caleb Colman (scalerman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1780 W: 64 N: 1058] (26900)
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