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A Devadasi is a Hindu temple priestess who performs ritualistic dances and songs, primarily to please the gods in a temple's "Sanctum Sanctorum" (inner sanctum), but also to help the temple worshippers elevate their consciousness. (Compare with the Greek catharsis.)

The modern forms of "sadir" (the devadasi's art) are the Bharata Natyam and Odissi dance styles.

Although it has largely degraded to a popular entertainment form like ballet, some of the contemporary virtuosos like Medha Hari still present it as a sacred worship that is deeply meaningful rather than merely entertaining.

Devadasis practise in South India. Their colleagues in the Indian state of Orissa are called maharis.

The former Devadasi system and its degradation

Similarly to Christianity and its practice of paedophile priests and the frequent sexual excesses of Christian monks and nuns, the Hinduism has known its share of degradation. Over the last two centuries, the Devadasi system of South India has in places degraded so far as to resemble Religious prostitution, and caused great objections, especially from those who opposed the left path of Tantra.

Women who belonged to the Isai Vellavar caste used to become Devadasis as early as when they were only 3 years old. In more recent developments, only when a girl attained puberty she would be offered to a Hindu temple. In the temple, she would occasionally work like a prostitute to earn money for the temple (this too used to be called service to god). Offering girls to the temple was usually accompanied by ceremonies in which the girl would wear white or transparent cloths, would take a holy bath, and will be offered in her wet, semi-naked state to the god.

Usually, the temple priest would first have sex with the girl, after which she would occasionally be used like a prostitute. When the girl grew older, she would sometimes be sold to a man as a concubine / servant / slave.

Since 1988, the whole Devadasi system has been officially made illegal. Regardless, it is still practised in a few backward village temples, especially in the province of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.


  • Wikipedia (2005). Devadasi. Retrieved April 17, 2005.

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