Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

Synopsis

Through the cold snows of the Central Himalayas, gods and goddesses are regularly taken on ritual processions from village to village. Nandadevi, one of the most popular goddesses, is worshipped by peasant Hindus in almost every village in the high-altitude districts where India, Nepal, and Tibet meet. This elegant study follows an arduous pilgrimage over the Himalayan ice fields to uncover the reasons for the popularity of this bloodthirsty goddess. Sax discovers that Nandadevi's appeal stems from that fact that her mythology parallels the life-courses of the local peasant women: her ritual procession imitates their annual journey to the village of their birth. Demonstrating that daughters' bonds with their natal homes are so significant that they thematically dominate their religious complex, Sax argues that the Garwhali religious culture actually nurtures the social antagonism that exists between wife-givers and wife-takers throughout North India.