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Possessed by the goddess: emergence of a new form of worship in the eastern Nepal

Pustak Ghimire, post-doctorant attaché au Centre d’études himalayennes, UPR 299, CNRS, Villejuif.
(doctorat EHESS 2010, post-doctorat au CNRS en 2011-2012, post-doctorat à l’Université d’Oxford en 2013)

Possessed by the goddess: emergence of a new form of worship in the eastern Nepal
The possession of women by the goddess Bhagavati in the central mountains of Nepal eastern villages appeared in the mid-1990s. The phenomenon originated in indigenous Himalayan peoples, Kirati and Magar, and then spread to the lower Hindu castes, while the Maoist insurgency developed.
Those elected by the deity cultivate clairvoyance and healing power that they put in the service of their devotees and many curious people. In adhering to an ascetic lifestyle, the possessed seek to maintain the grace of the goddess and gain social recognition and authority that the local society does not recognize spontaneously. The cult operates as a flexible network tending to proselytize. It faces the taunts of the skeptics and the misogynist.
The phenomenon should be interpreted in the context of mutations affecting the region: families shaken by the emigration of men, violence against women, disintegration of the power of the notables, local divisions exacerbated by the politicization and the Maoist insurgency, questioned in the hierarchy of castes… The incarnate presence of Bhagavati, powerful and compassionate deity, meets the spiritual needs of a fraction of the population.


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