Seeking svasthānī: The politics of gender, location, iconography, and identity in hindu Nepal

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The goddess Svasthānī's textual-ritual complex is one of Nepal's most popular traditions, celebrated 'in every Hindu household in Nepal'. Yet, despite her ubiquity and popularity, Svasthānī is nearly invisible both within and outside of her own tradition. This article examines the elusive identity of this local goddess in an effort to understand where and in what form Svasthānī is and is not found and what this tells us about the politics of gender, location, iconography, and Hindu identity in Nepal. I argue that Svasthānī gradually transforms from an invisible, private, unfixed, indeterminate goddess into a visible, public, fixed, specific, and local protector of place. In seeking to locate Svasthānī within both the pan-Hindu pantheon and Nepal's regional divine and human populations, we are able to see the complexities of coming into being, of being female in Hindu thought and practice, and of being Hindu in medieval and modern Nepal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-227
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Hindu Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies

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