They are messengers of the Gods; of Allah, Taleju, and Buddha. None is over fourteen years of age and one is not yet four. Nevertheless they draw crowds of thousands, inspiring both fascination and fervour. As the 21st century dawns, we have gone in search of these extraordinary children who are the messiahs of the new millenium.

These children are considered to be living gods and so are caught up in the fervour of the faithful. Stifled in their isolation, adulated by the crowds, and rocked to sleep to the sound of prayer and song, they are the intercessors between the human and divine worlds. Sheikh Sharif, aged 14, is the messenger of Allah and has been preaching the word of the Prophet in Africa since he was seven years old. The Kumari of Bhaktapur in Nepal is a living goddess aged three and a half, whose body and soul is inhabited by the bloodthirsty goddess Taleju. The Rimpoche Ugyen, eleven years old in “this life”, is a reincarnation. He has been living alone with his Buddhist master in a retreat near Bhutan since his enthronement eight years ago.


To go in search of these “inhabited” children with their dark, deep, unwavering and ageless expressions, is also to travel back in time, from the present to the past. It means entering the pantheon of the gods, crossing over to the other side of the river, with the innocence and purity of these chosen children as your guide.

Only the freshness of their laughter reminds us from time to time of their connection with the world of childhood. They are both divine children and childish gods, inspiring respect and fear amongst their faithful and commanding total adoration.

A traveller lost in these mystical places has to respect so much fervour. These extraordinary people fascinate us but questions remain as topower of those who forcee roles upon them. Can the carefree life of a child be stolen the name of a god?

Virginie Luc

These photographs are the result of collaboration between a photographer and a journalist, Virginie Luc, without whom this photo-reportage would never have been possible. I would like to thank her for coming up with the idea, for her opinions and for her trust.

Jérôme Delafosse

Jérôme Delafosse

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