Seasonal Salon

Kashmiri Goddess Myths

Like many border regions, Kashmir (currently claimed by both India and Pakistan) has its own unique culture, complete with goddesses and heroines that express Kashmiri ideals. In honor of that conflicted border region and others around the globe, here are two Kashmiri goddess figures and their myths:

Sanykisar, the crow-girl, ran away from home because her brother harbored incestuous desires for her. Encountering her, shivering from fear she would be found, an old man gave her seven magical seeds that instantly grew into trees. She climbed one and hid among its branches.

But her brother found her and began chopping down her tree. She darted across from one to the next, her brother chopping furiously beneath her. When she had reached the last and was in danger of being felled with the tree, she called out to the moon, which rescued her on a beam. But after a time in heaven, Sanykisar was sent back down to earth, finding herself resting in the nest of an old crow, who adopted her as his daughter.

They lived happily together until Sanykisar’s mother discovered her daughter’s whereabouts and began to lure her with toys, food and splendid clothing. Every time the girl grew homesick for humanity, her crow father brought her what she wanted. But as she sat in the tree, resplendent in her lovely gown, she caught the eye of a king. When she refused to come to earth to be his seventh wife, he ordered her tree cut down. When she fell to earth with it, Sanykisar was snatched up and brought to the palace. There she was subjected to a number of challenges, but each time her crow-father helped her so that, at last, she became the chief queen and lived happily thereafter.

 

The mountaintop goddess Vai¸s¸no Dev¯i has long been honored with pilgrimages to the vagina-like cave at the end of a nine-mile trail up a 6000-foot peak called Trikuta. Attested to a millennium ago, the pilgrimages are still part of Indian religion today, with as many as five million people making the difficult ascent each year. A goddess of a specific place, manifest in three rounded boulders, she is also believed to be a manifestation of the supreme goddess, Dev¯i, who reincarnated in a young girl in order to vanquish demons.

 

Both these stories will appear in Patricia Monaghan’s new Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines (Praeger/Greenwood 2009).

 

Sources:
For Sanykisar : Beck, Brenda E.F., Peter J. Claus, Praphulladatta Goswami and Jawaharlal Handoo.Folktales of India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

For Vai¸s¸no Dev¯I: Pintchman, Tracy, ed. Seeking Mah¯adev¯i: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.

Category: Winter Solstice 2008