Christoph Emmrich

Is He in Heaven or in Hell? The Elusive Husband in the Newar Mythology of Marriage


Narratives surrounding childhood rituals for Newar girls in the Kathmandu Valley tell us about multiple marriages as prerequisite for the final marriage to a mortal husband. Depending on the narrator, the handbook or the sequence of the ritual performance, the girls subsequently and alternatively engage with Shiva’s ascetic bachelor son Suvarnakumara, the fire god Agni, a gandharva, the Five Buddhas, a mysterious being called the khyah and, finally, the sun god Surya. This talk looks at the prescriptive, performative, and discoursive context of each possible pairing, to determine how the construction of serial religious practices and the role of changing divine agents have historically worked hand in hand to bring about the transformation of girls into women.


Christoph Emmrich, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, was born in Amman, Jordan, acquired his Ph.D. in Classical Indology at the University of Heidelberg in 2004 and has worked on the philosophy of time in canonical Theravada Buddhist and Digambara Jaina literature. His current research is on handbooks prescribing childhood rituals for girls among the Buddhist Newars of Lalitpur, Nepal.