Historical Background of Devadasi

Devadasi =Sanskrit, translation: "female Servant of God"

The term "Devadasi" originally described a Hindu religious practice in which girls were "married" to a deity. In addition to taking care of the temple, they learned and practiced traditional music and dancing, and enjoyed a high social status.
The Devadasi dance tradition which developed through the temple Danseuses is an important type among the dance patterns of India. Bharatnatyam in Tamil Nadu, Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, Odissi in Orissa and Mohiniyattam in Kerala took shape in the tradition of Devadasi dance. These dance forms grew and developed a classical status.
Though in the beginning the Devadasi institution was confined to Siva worship, as times passed other forms of religion also adopted the Devadasi tradition.
Following the demise of the great Hindu kingdoms the practice degenerated and Devadasis were considered to be immoral. They were described to be prostitutes, since they engaged in sex outside of the Christian concept of marriage. And with the Muslim invasion women, in general, were losing their independence and power.
The revivalists propagated the model of the ancient temple dancer as pure, sacred, and chaste women. They sketched them as nuns and stressed that the dance of devadasi was a form of "Natya Yoga" to enhance an individual's spiritual plane.
Still others claim that a devadasi was neither a prostitute nor a nun: "She was a professional artist who did not suppress or deny her feminine skills."
To this day the heritage of these girls who are given to and grow up in the Temple still exists, but they are mostly considered outcasts of society, and are imprisoned and enslaved within their enforced life positions. In spite of this, a respect for the name of Devdasi and what it once represented is still present within Hindu culture. Param Jyoti is very concerned about the welfare of these women.

Please see "Devadasi Project" >>