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 Goddess_ is 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Indian theories, verbal commentaries, songs, interviews, articles, propaganda, legends, pan-Indian Sanskrit liturgies, historical documents, and the author's remarkable personal account of the pilgrimage, this gripping narrative is a unique resource for courses in the anthropology of religion,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.
About the Author(s)
William S. Sax, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Christchurch, Germany