Sreevidhya Rajeev/ Chennai, Jan 2 (BPNS)
The Devadasi system was believed to be identified in the sixth century. It is practiced in various parts of India. To uproot this practice the Madras Presidency passed the Devadasi Abolition Act to protect the young girls and to provide them with all the rights that other communities have. The act was enacted on 9th October 1947, the law issued devadasis the legal right to marry, and dedicating girls to Hindu temples is considered illegal as per the Madras Devadasis Act.
Devadasis are female artists who were seen as the protectors of the arts. The devadasis devoted their entire life to worship and service of a deity or a temple. The young girls are dedicated and married to a deity before they reach puberty and they were expected to live a life of celibacy. The culture of a woman belonging to these communities was used to learn and practice different classical dance forms. Performing dance and music were an important part of temple worship. Some places in India supported the Devadasi system. The Chola Empire in South India was one among many supporters of the tradition. History suggests that around 400 dancers, along with the guru and music orchestra, were taken care of by Thanjavur Brihadeesvar Temple in a grand manner. Devadasis had high social status during the sixth and thirteenth centuries. During British rule in India, the authorities of temples lost their power, temple artist communities and devadasis were badly affected and they also lost their traditional means of support.
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy played a role in passing the Devadasi Abolition Bill but, due to strong protests from the side of devadasis across the Madras Presidency, he suggested that the bill be introduced only as a private bill. In the early 1930’s Muthulakshmi Reddi presented the bill in front of the Madras Legislative Council but passed on only during the Premiership of O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar after the independence. Some devadasis stood against this bill because they considered themselves sophisticated and learned artists rather than prostitutes. The first law passed against the devadasi system was the 1934 Bombay Devadasi Protection Act, the 1957 Bombay Protection (Extension) Act, the 1988 Andhra Pradesh Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, The Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act, the Andhra Pradesh Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1988, the Karnataka Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act in 1982, and Maharashtra System Abolition Act,2005.
According to their culture devadasis were trained in a dance form called Sadir Attam. Rukmini Devi Arundale eliminated the erotic touch in Sadiraattam and also includes the extension and use of space associated with dance traditions such as ballet. It results in the formation of a great classical dance form called Bharatnatyam. E Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale were credited to make this art form as a respectable dance form.
A notable initiative was from Shobha Gasti who worked for the upliftment of devadasi women from 360 villages in Karnataka and was honored with the Naari Shakthi award. After receiving the award she also mentioned education is the main solution for the devadasi system and added that at first the families or devadasis should be empowered to provide education to their children.