Smt. S. Padmavathi, Lecturer in Botany.
Visakha Government Degree college for Women, Visakhapatnam .
E-mail ID–[email protected]
The word ` devadasi’ originates from two Sanskrit words: Deva meaning God and Dasi meaning a female servant. As the name implies, girls were married to God or goddesses and they are designated ae servants of God..The tradition of Devadasi culture exists in India from time immemorial. In ancient days they were well treated and used to enjoy high social status. But now they are nothing more than prostitutes. However in reality, they became the sexual interests of priests of the temples, the king’s, zamindars, and other high profile men. In short, a devadasi became a common property for all high ranking men in ancient kingdoms. Even after the law enacted by government to ban the devadasi system in India, this system is still exists in the in different parts of the country The practice is still practiced by the families of poor, untouchables, Dalits and lower castes. Eliminating devadasi system is difficult.
Key words: Devadasi
Devadasis are also known by various other local names, such as Jogini in telangana. The Devadasi practice is known as Basivi in Karnataka, Matangi in Maharashtra and Bhavin and Kalavantin in Gao. It is also known as Venkatasani, nails, muralis and theradiyan. The tradition of Devadasi culture can be traced back to as early as the 7th centuary, particularly in southern parts parts of India, during the reigns of the Cholas, Chelas, and Pandyas.
Categories of Devadasis:
In the ancient times Devadasis were diided into seven categories. They are known as
- Gopika or Rudraganikaru
When a sacred man offered his daughter to a tempe as a Devadasi, she is known as Dutta Devadasi. But when a lady was kidnapped and subsequently employed in a temple, she is als known as Hruta Devadasi. Sometimes when a girl was sold to preist of a teple, she is known as Bikruta Devadasi. If a lady voluntarily worked in a temple is known as Bhakta Devadasi. when a woman after attaining a certain degree of competence, is offered to the temple with ornamentals, she is known as Alankara Devadasi. The Devadasis who were getting fixed remuneration for offering dance and music in the temple in a particular time is identified as Gopika or Rudraganika. These classes of the Devadasis . Were receiving fixed remunerations and some landed property for their personal use?
In South India, a Devadasi is a girl dedicated t worship and serve a diety or temple from the rest of her life. The dedication takes place in Pottukattu ceremony which is similar in some ways to marriage. In this ceremony this girl is married to an emblem of the god borrowed from the temple as a stand in bridegroom. From then, onwards, the Devadasi is considered a nitya sumangali, a woman eternally free from widowhood. In addition to taking care of the teple and performing rituals, these women also learned and practiced classical Indian artistic traditions like Bharatnatyam and Odissi dances. They had a high social status, as dance and music were an essential part of temple worship. They had children by high officials and priests who were also taught their skills of music or dance. Eminent personalities that have hailed from this community are Bharat Ratna recipient M. S. Subbalakshmi and Padma Vibhushan recipient Balasaraswathi. During British rule, in the Indian subcontinent, kings who were the patrons of temples and temple arts lost their power. As a result, Devadasi were left without their traditional means of support and patronage. During colonial views on Devadasi are hotly disputed by several groups and organizations in India.
Owing to strong protests from Devadasis across Madras presidency, Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy introduced Devadasi Abolition Bill, as a private bill. This bill became the Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication Act ) also called the Tamilnadu Devadasis Prevention of Dedication Act or the Madras devadasi Act) . The law was enacted on 9 October 1947. This law gave Devadasis the legal right to marry and made it illegal to dedicate girls to Hindu temples. Some Devadasis objected the bill because they considered themselves sophisticated and learned artists rather than prostitutes. The Madras Devadasi Act was specific to Devadasis, prostitution continued in South India, particularly along the coast in Andhra Pradesh, until the Madras Anti Devadasi Act was passed on 14 August 1956.
Mrs. Hemalatha lavanam, a visionary woman, was an outstanding social worker who fought relentlessly against deep rooted social evils like Jogini system in the Thelangana region, a remnant of the Devadasi system . She was also co founder of samskar with her husband, Lavanam. Hemalata Lavanam worked on upliftment and eradication of Joginis in Nizamabad district. Through samskar, her work made the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N. T. Ramarao Government enact legislation in 1988 to eradicate Jogini system or Devadasis system. However, according to National Human Rights commission, in 2013, there were as many as 450,000 Devadasis in India.Both before and after independence, the government enacted laws prohibiting this social evil.
At present, Devadasis are mere sex slaves or child prostitutes. Almost all of them are dalits, with a majority belonging to the Madiga and Valmiki castesin India. The government and NGOs have o provide these communities with basic education and making them economically empowered, along with sensitization, would be the ideal way forward.
Vadivelu Rajalakshmi (1985). The Political Behaviour of women in Tamilnadu.InterIndia Publications. ISBN 988121000208.
Movalur A. Ramamrithammal(2003). K. Srilata (ed). Lobbying for Devadasi Abolition : From Artiste to Prostitute. The other Half of the Coconut : Women Writing self respect Histry; Zubaan. P. 100. ISBN 978818670603.
Davesh Soneji (201). Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India. University of Chicago Press. P. 110. ISBN 978226768090.