NEPAL, December 5, 2012 (BBC): More than 11,000 girls have taken part in a mass Hindu prayer ceremony in western Nepal, which organizers say is one of the biggest of its kind ever to be held in the country.
The traditional Kanya Puja ceremony honors girls as incarnations of the Goddess Bhagawati. It included girls from different ethnic communities and castes. Organizers say the aim is to dismantle the caste system and spread a message of equality and social harmony.
"It is our Vedic tradition to offer puja [Hindu devotions] to kanya [girls] who are regarded as incarnations of Goddess Bhagawati," festival organizing chief Bharat Raj Poudel said. He added that the Puja was being done in a manner to bring about "social revolution" by ensuring a more inclusive society and discarding discriminatory caste traditions such as "untouchability".
Nepal has recently witnessed ethnic unrest amid heated debate over the composition of a new constitution. Members of parliament remain divided over the issue.
The Kanya Puja is to be followed by the two-week-long Mahayagya. The main objective of the Mahayagya, according to organizers, is to preserve Hindu traditions, philosophy and values of life. Formerly a Hindu kingdom, Nepal was transformed into a secular republic six years ago.