Nepal's (nominal) king Gyanendra missed his annual blessing from a virgin "goddess" breaking a tradition seen as crucial for the Himalayan monarchy's survival. The Royal Kumari festival is a 250-year-old tradition the king of Nepal needs to attend in order to remain the country's undisputed leader.
The Kumari is a pre-pubescent girl selected from a Buddhist community in Kathmandu valley and taken from her family to live in an ornate palace in the centre of the capital's ancient quarter. She is worshiped as the living incarnation of a Hindu goddess, and her annual blessing is considered a spiritual seal of approval for the palace in the conservative Hindu-majority nation.
The final status of the monarchy is to be decided after elections in November for a body that will rewrite Nepal's constitution....that promises to be interesting since the current government seeks to abolish the monarchy, and for Nepal to become a republic. Few, if any, will miss King Gyanendra.
One of the possible destinations for my 2008 photo expeditions is Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley so I'll be watching these developments with interest.