Childhood is the realm where one dreams without a care and laughs an easy innocent laughter. In those tender years of growing up, we trust easily. The unconditional love of our parents teaches us the significance of love and sacrifice. Those morals and family values we learn in those early years shapes the individual we grow up to be. But when your own family betrays you, the society exploits you, and you are all alone in the struggle to survive, where then do you find the spirit to live?Centuries ago, someone decided that a young girl should be dedicated to Goddess Yellamma to make her special and to praise the Gods. For years, this practice was followed in many districts of Karnataka and a few regions of Maharashtra as well. During these last few weeks, I have met with a lot of former Devadasis and heard a lot of real life stories. Most of them were dedicated to Goddess Yellamma to become a Devadasi at the unsuspecting age of 10 or even less. All they knew about being a Devadasi at that age was that it was a colorful ritual and their parents wanted them to be dedicated. But that was just the beginning. When most girls are discovering life and dreaming about a prince charming and a beautiful wedding, these girls were being sold by their own families. Any man who desired them had the right to claim them, and the girl’s family members where usually happy to oblige as they received money in return. This exploitation left most of them to care for their children all alone in a society where they were not even allowed to work. In most of the cases, the men even refused to accept the children as their own subjecting Devadasi to further humiliation and emotional trauma.[caption id="attachment_5025" align="aligncenter" width="1500"] A young girl being dedicated as a Devadasi[/caption]In the year 1982, a law was passed and dedication of Devadasis was banned by Karnataka State government. However, a law cannot undo the mark years of exploitation leaves on one’s soul; neither can it change the socio-economic factors overnight. But after 34 years, when I see these women, former Devadasis as they are called, all I can see is independent women living their lives just like everyone else. They run their own micro businesses such as cattle rearing, tailoring, Pan shops etc. They have joined hands and formed Self help groups and stand beside each other in times of difficulty. As most of them are illiterate, the most educated one among them takes responsibility and helps everyone else. These women have found the most basic attribute of life; they have found the strength in unity.[caption id="attachment_5024" align="aligncenter" width="1500"] A self help group of former Devadasis[/caption]One question I cannot seem to figure out is where did they find the spirit to live and fight for what was rightfully theirs?This question remains unanswered for me, but one thing is clear. Wherever they found it, they found strength unlike anything else. And they are an inspiration for all those who strive for a better way of life and are willing to fight for it.
What Has Been The Aftermath Of The Devadasi System?