On the 15th of Jan, we put up a post on our @himalayanfolkcollective instagram handle that we were worried might rub people the wrong way. However, the response was nothing short of revolutionary. We are humbled and touched by the visionary folk that are working towards the reclamation of our identities and of our land and hope that we can help, in our own small way, to provide a platform to build lasting networks of community and solidarity.
For the sake of prosperity, we have compiled the budding discourse below, with the hope that this is only just the beginning.
The post we shared read as such:
"Himachal Pradesh is a border region and resource rich state, the developmental trajectories of which were first mapped out by British Raj and now by the demands of the Indian nation, leading to the subversion of our culture by the grand narratives of colonialism and hindutva raj.
For example, Himachal Pradesh is often called "Dev Bhumi Himachal" (Land of the Gods). What is often overlooked is that the thousands of Gods (or Devtas, that translate more appropriately to Godlings) are actually pagan (and
often ancestral) deities whose cosmologies lie outside Hinduism.
It is brahmanization that has led to the inclusion of these Pahari Devtas into the Hindu fold as deities as avatars of Shiva. This is ironic for Shiva himself (as shown by Wendy Doniger) started off as a Tribal Deity, for Daksha doesn't initially invite him for the ceremony along with all the other gods. It is through the myth of Sati (and the disposal of the feminine) and the following reconciliation that bring him into the Hindu fold.
How then, can we reclaim our alternative cosmologies and histories and through them reclaim our futures? "
And just like that, the discourse began:
A very educated stance. People associate our deities with mainstream Hinduism which is far from the truth. The origin stories of many deities and names of most of the deities have been transformed in such a way as to link them with Hindu gods. A suffix such as -एश्वर in the names of many deities, is a clear example of this.
Clear understanding of our roots and history is required. While there have been many foreign researchers working on these topics, I have not seen many localities intrested in researching these topics. Devtas, Pahari language, Shamanism, history of Khash are few topics where we need more research.
Hi! It's so good to read about this aspect! I've just started exploring this aspect of Mahasui folklore for my research. Just wanted to contribute to this a little bit more... The brahamanization or inclusion into the Hindu fold is a hegemonic move and this discourse is called "The Palace paradigm" basically translating to viewing things from a point of privilege(hence palace). I hope this interests you!
It had to be said out loud ! An incredibly noble initiative. The Hindu pantheon is vast, but that doesn't change the nature of the local deities/shamanic practices. Shiva, before transforming into several different versions of himself, existed as the primordial being Pashupatinath. We are all brothers, all people, beasts, trees, stones, and wind. We all descend from the one great being who was always there. Before the first people crawled out of their caves and named him, before the first seed sprouted.
Valid point and a genuine question to ask. However, in Himachal we still pray to nature, rocks, trees, etc and do fire wash during Diwali etc. My point is that we did not submit entirely to mainstream Hinduism and are still in touch with our centuries old belief systems. Also, this version of practicing a religion or belief system hits home if compared to the mainstream version.
But in Kullu many devtas are mainstream hindu deities and some are local devtas. Btw our God also came from tibet 😅 along with his brothers.
I have always wondered and debated with the people on this very topic. It's considered such taboo to say the least. We just don't question our beliefs, we are too afraid to dig deep. The world Hinduism is a wider term but indigenous religions are barely acknowledged or even believed. Glad we have a platform to discuss these now. More power to you guys❤️ 🙌
Wahoo, glad to see someone is bringing up the topic, else mostly it is brushed under the carpet, coz no one wants to be the bad guy. But I guess it’s high time and we should address the elephant in the room. To understand the history of this stratum we need to dig more and should not turn our blind eyes to whatever is the result. As Hinduism, itself is a wider term but this word its self is in a question to me as it was branded by the Britishers and I guess they picked it from Iranians. And now it has invigorated the current society in such a way that it has been quite the same story everywhere
Spiritual rather religious
Yes it is true that these gods are facing serious threats from mainstream God's. And a large project has working since last century to convert or connect them with mainstream. But many of these local gods has their own great histories and at point of the time at many centuries ago they were the part of shavite and other traditions as well. But for now post colonial times Himachal has recreated again our religion and for this you can read work of Mark Elmore and many others but mark has done great job.
This has been done mostly in 6-8th century. Most of the deities in the Kullu region are given names relatable to Hindu mainstream Gods. Many of the deities came here from Tibet. Its a vast topic and not many people will accept this. You will be surprised if I say, Hadimba, Prashar, Adi Brahma are few to be named among many! We at tharahkardu are working on this since a long time now.
Agree. I have been doing my PhD on the same question of the Hindu mainstream appropriation of the local deities. You might be interested in the work of Daniela berti and Peter Sutherland. They have done some good work in this regard. And also molu ram thakur and Penelope Chetwode. Heartening to see that more people have felt the same way about the local deities. Look forward to having a discussion on this sometime.
That pahari devtas are avatars of shiva is not actually true. And not all of them are avatars of shiva.
I had also read some reasearch papers of Peter Sutherland, on area of Jabbal and Khabbal of Rohru region. He describes the deities system in very well manner, he also mention Rohru as a centre where the palquins or Rath of different kinds reassemble together, which is absolutely right. But I think he also mention his Marxist idiology there, which can be seen there......but it was just stunning.
This was truly an inspiring experience! And we hope to continue this discourse on our Blog Platform, inviting you all to send in your articles/folktales/snippets of interest to email@example.com We hope to archive and open source both the history, the present and the future possibilities of the region and for this we need your help! So join us as in this reclamation revolution!