Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

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.

Excerpt

The following, excerpted portion of the epic song of Nandadevi begins after a primordial goddess named Ādiśakti, 'the original (a+̄di) power (śakti)' has given birth to the goddess Parvati, who has given birth to the woman Nal1+̄ṇna, who has given birth, in turn, to the bird Pankh1+̄ṇa.

Adishakti was very happy. "I created the sky above, I created the earth below. I created the eastern kingdom, I created the western kingdom. I created the southern kingdom, I created the northern kingdom. I created the forests and mountains, I created the trees and plants. I created the rocks and cliffs, I created the pebbles and boulders. I created the Ganges and Yamuna, I created the wishing cow. I created the bards and Brahmans, I created the five high gods. I created the tall and the spreading trees, I created the kings of the earth.

I created the faithful earth. But how can I live without a man? Without a man, for whom shall I live? Without a man, there is no wealth. Without a tree, there can be no shade. How shall I give birth to that shade-giving tree? Or must I remain a sad little girl? How can I give birth to a man? . . ."

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