Looking for Information about prostitution and devadasi in Hinduism

Discussion in 'General discussion' started by hinduguy13, May 8, 2015.

  1. hinduguy13

    hinduguy13 New Member

    Hello The HinduForum,

    I am currently studying the subject "Study of Religion" which looks into comparing religious views, traditions and beliefs. Please note if I receive some responses they would most likely formulate my response to the assignment.... Meaning my answer is up to you, if you, or many have a different view on what Hinduism teaches. This would be an opportunity to anonymously express your feelings. Okay to the point:

    "What are your views on either prostitution in general, or Dev***si?

    Thank you, your opinions would be much appreciated, and I hope bringing up this topic hasn't offended anyone.


  2. Aum

    Aum New Member

    Just went through a notes of few guys and here is one of them...

    how did devadasi exit from the scene? - a classical cover up!
    The following core areas have to be subjected to a deep scrutiny and an in depth study to gain an understanding of the complex history of natya:

    1.creative literatures like classical sanskrit play texts and kavya literature, sahitya of sadir/bharatanatyam and classical carnatic music, jayadeva's geeta govindam and the like which have a greater grip on the classical performance tradition.
    2.performance theories and manuals like natyashastra and its commentaries from tenth century up to (jagannatha pandiha of) seventeenth century,
    3.the vibrant performance tradition with royal patronage till late eighteenth century (including the bhakti movement and lokadharmi tradition)
    4.the arrival of orientalists who translated, commented and published the sanskrit texts and brought to the notice of the emerging english speaking elite of urban india
    5.the more critical modern phase in which the transformation of sadir into classical bharatanatyam took place with the exit of devadasi.
    even a cursory reading of texts would reveal the sringara/eroticism was a core area of performing arts of india.
    why was this not preserved and why a lot of religious/spiritual stuff was imposed on the performance tradition and the whole field was mystified?
    how did devadasi exit from the scene?
    the history of the performing women -apsara, ghanika, devadasi, tawaif and the modern narthaki/gayaki/nati - should be kept at the centre of the inquiry.

    I will do my research and come back to you in quick time
  3. hinduguy13

    hinduguy13 New Member

    Aum. Thank you for your reply and willingness to help me out. It is very much appreciated :)
  4. Aum

    Aum New Member

    Have u done any research ? this is a very good point and we guys should have some credible answers for the query.
  5. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    Notes of a friend.
    its bit old but this can help you in your research.

    Devadasi – the fallen goddess

    I have recently stumbled upon a documentary about Indian women in Northern Karnataka. Excited to learn something new about the indigenous customs and rituals in India, after first few minutes of watching my blood already boiled. It wasn’t a colourful piece about the festivals, elephants and curry, but a movie about an ancient tradition which although illegal, still prevails.

    Devadasi, in Hindu “a woman who serves god”, is a religious practice of devoting women to a deity or to a temple. In the times of great dynasties and Indian grandeur, girls still in their childhood, were dedicated to be the servants of the temple and those in power: dignitaries, both politic and religious. They were keeping away the evil eye by praying, chanting and dancing, and they had a special social status, adorning the festivals and official meetings. One of the important duties were also sexual services, and Devadasis were believed to have mastered all the tricks of the trade . Some of them amassed wealth and passed it along maternal line. Today, even though the practice was completely banned in 1988, the Devadasis still exist. Their role does not entail the sacred rituals any more, but for legal and economic reasons they have become the workers of the red light district.

    I know, prostitution is not any news. Yes, we have all seen at least one in our lifetime; Ukrainian women along transit roads in Poland and Germany, some in the red district in Amsterdam, brothels in Barcelona. But the outrageous detail which made my blood curl was not the prostitution itself but the dedication of the little girls by their families. They have almost no say, taken to festivals where the red and white beads, muthu, a symbol of Devadasi, are tied around their necks. These girls are forced to become prostitutes, even though the status they get by becoming one if far from the one from pre-colonial splendour. They are devoted to support their families, and start working as early as 10 years old. This is not just a sex business for adults but something resembling the child prostitutes in the Philippines. And fair enough, I am not judging neither adult women who settle for this profession, nor men who use their services, but a practice which involves children is far too much. I understand the dire economic situation leave families in poverty, but a mother devoting a child to a fallen tradition sounds utterly abominable and disgraceful. Deities like Yellamma, has been long gone and in present times the red and white beads on a young girl’s neck mean no more than destruction of childhood and living a nightmare. They will have to live a life being exposed to HIV, sexual exploitation and shattered marital dreams, because Devadasi cannot marry an earthly men. And all that for a few dimes?
  6. Hindu

    Hindu Member Staff Member

    There is no link of prostitution with devadasi, It was corrupted by mughals and britishers, The corruption of them happened in last 800 yrs of rule.
    Rest .
    Many centuries ago there was a practice developed in which the womens were made the wives of god and named with different names like jogins, kalawants , mathammas, paravatis including Devdasi's and they lived in the boundary of temples. they performed religious activities and functions in the temples apart from this they were community of artists wherein they performed music and dance in the temples as well as private functions.
    These devdasi's developed classical indian dance forms, Bharatnatyam is such dance form which was developed in modern days but was performed by devdasis and was known as sadir dance. There is significant contribution of devadasis towards indian music.
    There are many great contemporary dancers, singers and instrumentalists with devadasi lineage and one such unashamed(of devadasi lineage) artist os Kishori Amonkar who is also one of the most well known classical singher of india.
    Three most renowned Indian singers i.e. Lata mangeshkar, her sisters and MS subbulakshmi trace their lineage to devadasi community.

    The community was developed with distinct customs that was best suited to enable them to live as artists without suppressing their emotional & physical needs and this highly professional group of people was managed and controlled by matriarchal who had to be women by sex.
    Devadasi as per the books and internet sources have references of prostitution which seems two different things all together.
    The reference of such things (dancing girls in temple) is found in “Meghadhoot” which was written by kalidas. At time of worship in Lord Mahakal Temple of Ujjain the dancing girls were present.
    Majority of such events and their referances comes from around 6th century A.D which means it became common in this phase of time.

    Many referances of Puranas which were modified during this period show recommended that arrangements should be made to enlist the services of singing girls at the time of worship at temples.At the end of 10th century The fact that total number of devadasis were almost proportional to the amount of wealth the temple had incuding the prestigious value of the temple. There numbers increased to highest during medieval period for example 400 devadasis were attached to the temple at Tanjore during this phase of time.

    Just About a century ago, the campaign to distrupt the hindu beliefs was launched to portray devadasis as prostitutes and as immoral women and this campaign still exists in form of news and many other forms. it has become a custom to talk about the abolishment of the evil devadasi system and it was abolished many years ago in the states where it was practiced.
    The system is now dead and even if it exists it exists in fossilized or corrupted version of its original form

    The real truth about devadasis is that they were not (and by majority they are not even today) prostitutes.
    It must be noted that the devadasi custom had a very prestigious status which required lot of sacrifices.

    The devadasi who was drafted from the leading or ruling families in a community had the status of the wife of the patron deity of the community.
    Even they played imporatnt role in ritual and religious activities of the community. So, as an obligation, the temples and the society maintained them. The Devadasis were also persons of much skill and ability and were good dancers and singers and provided recreation to art-loving people.
    Post independences some of the devadasis were teachers who used to teach dance, music & theatre in areas of south India.
    Some of the examples of devadasi's as singers and dancers can be seen in temples of puri, Goa, Tanjavor,Mathura etc.
    The most unfortunate part of the campaign that were started to target the community was that the
    poor womans were portrayed as a prostitute who onces were respected member of the community and they were welcomed in every house as sign of piousness and blessing on even the most auspicious occasions, but suddenly due to this campaigns they were painted black without any empathy.

    The preserver of classical traditions of music and dance suddenly become a tabo in the society. these so-called social reformers, secularists and humanists ignored the poius aspect of their work and launched various campaigns asking people to boycott their performances. These pseudo-reformers destroyed the source of livelihood of these devadasi's and pushed them into prostitution.

    No woman on earth deserves to be treated in the manner that this wife of god has been treated by these pseudo-reformers of the society.They portrayed it as evil and considered every devadasi to be a prostitute. The missionaries and pseudo-reformers together with their deep and effective nexus branded the devadasi as a harlot and had her legally outlawed.
    Few hindus know that nityasumangali,the ever-auspicious woman were made to run in streets by this nexus of these influential high class gangs well supported by west.
  7. hinduguy13

    hinduguy13 New Member

    Thankyou very much for your sharing. I am very honoured to think you have taken the time to write this response (which is going to be extremely useful). Thanks.
    2 people like this.
  8. hinduguy13

    hinduguy13 New Member

    Thankyou garry420 for retrieving these notes for me. I am very thankful for your time.
  9. Aum

    Aum New Member

    Since majority of things have been answers just to add more information about devdasi...it was manipulated by tawaif at the time of mugals...There used to be prostitution but it was linked with music more than sex
  10. Senthil

    Senthil Active Member Staff Member

    The magazine Hinduism Today did a couple of longer articles on the devadasis about 20 years back. Here's the link to Part 2.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2015

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