The Divine as a Child and the Mother Goddess

On the History and Practice of Kunwarikā Devī Worship in the Garhwal Himalaya




Uttarakhand, Kunwarikā Devī, Garhwal Himalaya, religion, pilgrimage


Kunwarikā Devī is one of the forms of Ādi Śaktī (primordial goddess) and is represented as a kanyā (unmarried little girl). She is worshiped both as a child and as a mother goddess in the Garhwal Himalaya. In 2019, there was a significant worship event of the goddess after a gap of 92 years (the previous worship had occurred in 1927). The Devī traveled to different villages to bless devotees and keep them safe. The Kunwarikā Devī worship practice can help illuminate the relationship between regional attachment and divinity, as Uttarakhand is referred to as the dev bhūmi, namely “land of the Gods.” The Kunwarikā Devī worship is located at the intersections of culture and society. The paper elucidates how the history of the Devī, her worship, story, and regional attachment are all connected. It argues that such journeys play a central role in integrating the Garhwali community but do not remove the organizational tensions that mark the Kunwarikā Devī procession. Finally, through detailed descriptions of the preparation and conduct of the worship, we highlight the organizational challenges involved in executing a ritual event on this scale.

Author Biography

Shubha Ranganathan, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad

Shubha Ranganathan is Associate Professor of the Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad. Her work is broadly located at the interface of culture, gender and psychology, particularly with reference to issues of health and disability. Her research is interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of medical anthropology, disability studies, medical humanities, gender studies, and alternate paradigms within psychology such as critical psychology. She has been engaged in ethnographic research on local healing practices and lived experiences of mental health and disability. Her research is framed by critical perspectives, focuses on lived experiences and narratives of people presumed to be ‘abnormal’ or ‘different’. Her work also engages with issues surrounding the politics of mental health and disability. She is currently engaged in a research study on the lived experiences of caregiving from the perspective of caregivers of a child that is neurodiverse, specifically with autism spectrum. 




How to Cite

Gairola, V., & Ranganathan, S. (2023). The Divine as a Child and the Mother Goddess: On the History and Practice of Kunwarikā Devī Worship in the Garhwal Himalaya. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 42(1), 98–117.



Research Articles