Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

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9780195069792: Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage

Every few decades, thousands of Hindu villagers in the Central Himalayas of North India carry their regional goddess Nandadevi in a bridal palanquin to her husband Shiva's home, walking barefoot over icebound mountain passes to a lake surrounded by human bones. This Royal Pilgrimage of Nandadevi is a ritual dramatization of the post-marital journeys of married women from their natal homes to their husbands' homes. Mountain Goddessis an anthropological study of this pilgrimage and the cult of Nandadevi, especially as they relate to local women's lives. The author shows how Nandadevi's appeal stems from the fact that her mythology parallels the life-courses of the local peasant women, and that her ritual procession imitates their annual journey to the village of their birth. Drawing on formal Indian theories, verbal commentaries, songs, interviews, articles, propaganda, legends, pan-Indian Sanskrit liturgies, historical documents, and the author's remarkable personal account of the pilgrimage, this gripping narrative is a unique resource for courses in the anthropology of religion, Hinduism, and folklore, ritual, and gender studies.

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From the Back Cover:

IN THIS BOOK, WILLIAM S. SAX OFFERS AN ENTHRALLING ACCOUNT OF AN ARDUOUS JOURNEY, FOCUSING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CULT OF NANDADEVI IN THE LIVES OF LOCAL HINDU WOMEN. SAX SHOWS THAT NANDADEVI'S APPEAL STEMS FROM THE FACT THAT HER MYTHOLOGY PARALLELS THE LIFE-COURSES OF CENTRAL HIMALAYAN PEASANT WOMEN, JUST AS HER RITUAL PROCESSIONS IMITATE THEIR PERIODIC JOURNEYS BETWEEN THEIR NATAL AND MARITAL HOMES.

About the Author:

William S. Sax is at University of Christchurch, New Zealand.

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