The Goddess of Many Faces: The Complex Nature of the Western Himalayan Hadimba Devi
Nowadays, the goddess Hadimba of the Western Himalayan Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh, India) is identified as a character from the Mahabharata epic. Yet, a close examination of orally transmitted narratives and ritual practices associated with Hadimba, as well as of the sociopolitical contexts in which her identity has been forged, reveal a much more complex figure. As I will show in this paper, this complexity of the divine is not lost on practitioners. This is nicely revealed by the institution of the palanquins – the ritually constructed material vehicles through which deities in the region manifest.