Gone with the devadasis

Radha BaiMusic aficionados in Bangalore were treated on 31 January 2014 to a daylong discussion and documentary film on the Devadasi tradition of the north Karnataka-Maharashtra border areas with a focus on the music of the devadasis, something that our cultural heritage lost with the “cleaning up” of the tradition of devadasis in the post-war years. We came away from the film show and the discussions that followed, pondering the cultural entities that got snuffed out and jettisoned during and after colonial rule, in the name of “modernity”.

Devadasis, literally meaning “dedicated to the service of God,” were women artists and an essential part of temple ensembles, particularly in south India. Their song and dance recitals were part of the rituals of worship offered to the deities; and this meant that in a social milieu the homemaker women, especially from the upper castes and communities, were not allowed to take to music or dance as a full time pursuit… read more