ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Travelling Goddesses of Garhwal Himalaya: Uncovering the Interplay of Religion, Text, Music, and Environment in Travel Narratives


Gairola Vineet - Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Department of Liberal Arts, Telangana, India


34 – Religious and Environmental Encounters: North Indian Mountains Through the Eyes of Travellers


This study examines the cultural significance of the travelling goddesses in the Garhwal Himalaya, focusing on three different processional journeys of the mountain goddesses spanning over 1400 km, namely, Kunwarika, Chandika, and Padmavati. This paper contrasts the author’s own experience of walking barefoot and fasting on these journeys with past and current narratives of devotees and travelers, exploring issues of local healing, possession experiences, the role of music, and how deities shape devotees’ relationship with the environment. Such processions link people to places and vice-versa. This research employs an interdisciplinary approach, combining methods from the fields of psychology, ethnomusicology, and religious studies for the analysis of the devotees’ experiences. The study focuses on how religion, text, music, environment, and the role of travelling goddesses in community integration are intertwined in narratives written in local journals between June 2020 and 2022, with contributions from fellow travelers, historians, locals, and devotees. This study sheds light on the importance of these narratives in shaping the religious and cultural identity of the Garhwal Himalayan communities. This study contributes to the wider academic discourse on the relationship between religion, music, and environment, and provides valuable insights into the cultural traditions of the Garhwal Himalaya.