Devadasi Self-Narratives

The Devadasi system is a centuries-old Hindu religious practice in India which offers young girls in marriage to deities. These girls usually belong to the Dalit caste — the lowest of India’s social classes — and as ‘servants’ ordained by deities, Devadasis are ritually forced to offer sexual services upon attaining puberty. Devadasis are marginalised by society and kept in poverty, often turning to begging, trafficking or manual labour to earn their livelihood later in life. Devadasis’ children are also stigmatised by society and unacknowledged by their fathers.

This study, by organizations Sakhi Trust and Dhaatri trust, was an attempt not only to understand the lives and history of Devadasi women in an area of the Bellary District in Karnataka, but also to represent the contemporary problems and vulnerabilities of Devadasis’ children and young dalit girls. As Devadasi women have never had the opportunity to write their own stories, this research is an attempt to bring the self-narratives of Devadasi women and their children into the public domain in order to challenge the current politics of development economics and social exclusion.