Ancestors, Goddesses, Ritual and Politics

Fieldwork in Bhaktapur, Nepal


  • Matthew Martin Independent scholar



Nepal, Bhaktapur, Newars, Ritual Performance, Politics, Goddesses, Fieldwork, Religion


This article will recount the author’s fieldwork in Bhaktapur, Nepal, between 2015 and 2016, during two separate stints, which coincided with the aftermath of an earthquake that occurred in April 2015. The author conducted his research with a family of dancer-mediums in Bhaktapur—known locally as the Banmalas—in an area known as Kamalvin?yak. Annually, from October to June, the Banmalas perform a series of ritual performances in and around Bhaktapur. During these rites, each medium embodies a member of a goddess-family (Navadurg?) whose respective shrines encircle Bhaktapur’s borders. Broadly, this article will introduce the family’s traditions, rituals and political affinities, whilst also highlighting the importance of combining group-centred fieldwork with a cross-sectional study for scholars of contemporary religion.


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Author Biography

Matthew Martin, Independent scholar

Matthew Martin completed his DPhil in religion at Pembroke College, Oxford. His research interests include the study of lived religion, ritual, pilgrimage and politics in Nepal and South India. He is the author of Tantra, Ritual Performance and Politics in Nepal and Kerala (Brill, 2020) and has published book reviews in various journals.


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How to Cite

Martin, M. (2022). Ancestors, Goddesses, Ritual and Politics: Fieldwork in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Fieldwork in Religion, 17(2), 225–241.