Is it God Speaking? Agency of Deities in the Western Himalaya

Asaf Sharabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In many ethnographies, deities reflect social structures, represent power relations, or serve as a resource for individuals. However, believers usually do not doubt the existence of deities and their agency: that is, their ability to act and initiate change. The gap between these points of view narrows in the religious experiences in the Indian Himalayas. There, the local population, who communicate with local deities via mediums, face an epistemological problem: how to be certain that they are, indeed, talking with their gods. Furthermore, the believers are aware that they play a role in the decisions of the gods. These two aspects of the religious experience are expressed in the gradual transition of the gods from a Pahāṛī to a pan-Hindu identity, an indication of the way in which the agency of the gods is being challenged and is subject to negotiation by the locals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-373
Number of pages18
JournalAnthropological Forum
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 The University of Western Australia.


  • Agency
  • deities
  • identity
  • spirit possession
  • western Himalaya


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