Devadasi Rehabilitation Programme (DRP)
The term ‘‘Devadasi’’ is a Sanskrit term which means - one
who dedicates oneself to the Deity. Though it was commonly used, the
institution and the women in profession were known locally by different terms.
The equivalent term in Kannada is ‘basavis’ or ‘jogitis’. ‘Devadasi’s are also
known locally by the names of Nayakasani, Rangasani, Gangasani,
Muttukattikondavalu, Davara Sule, Kasabi, Patradavalu and Jogiti. ‘Devadasi’
women were originally connected with huge temples in southern India, whereby
parents marry a daughter to a deity or a temple.
The practice of ‘‘Devadasi’’, by which a girl, usually
before reaching the age of puberty, is ceremoniously dedicated or married to
the deity or a temple. This was practiced in several southern States including
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. ‘Devadasi’ literally meaning “female servant of
god”. The ceremony is performed by the senior ‘‘Devadasi’s’. Red and White
beads from the God’s necklace are tied around the girl’s neck. The dedication
ceremony involves an elaborate preparation on the part of the parents/guardians
who wish to dedicate their child. This dedication ceremony is more or less
similar to a marriage ceremony. It is called as `Muttu Kattuvadu` (tying the
beads) or `Devarige Biduvadu` (dedicating to the deity) in the colloquial
language. It is a very peculiar practice wherein the marriage takes place
between the same sexes. These wives of God lived in and around the temples.
After she attains puberty the elders in the family select a
man for her who may provide food for the family. She can live with him, but
cannot marry since she is dedicated to the ‘Goddess Velamma’. Children born
with this union will not have their father’s name or his property. If a girl
develops `jat` (matted hair), she is dedicated to the Goddess as it was
believed that she had received summons from the Goddess to serve her.
The difference between the ‘‘Devadasi’’ system and the
Jogin/Basavi is noteworthy. The ‘‘Devadasi’’ system is not confined to a
particular caste. Though, when it comes to practice, nearly 95% to 98% of the
women dedicated as ‘‘Devadasi’s’ in Karantaka are from the scheduled caste
community. Unlike ‘Jogins’, the ‘‘Devadasi’s’ are not treated as untouchables;
the temple doors are always open for them. In the past they were even honoured
by the public and were offered special seats alongside the figures of royalty.
‘‘Devadasi’s’ confined their activities to the boundaries of
temples, in particular traditional ones. Jogins / Basavis on the other hand,
participate in dances before chariots of Gods and Goddesses at processions
during village festivals. Jogins / Basavis are not allowed to dance inside the
traditional temples, and their activities are limited to small traditional
temples in the villages. Jogis / Basavis are also called upon to dance at
funeral processions, at the annual festival, assorted village rituals and
during the harvest. However, the differences between these two systems
gradually became dilute and the so-called traditional ‘‘Devadasi’’ system
disappeared along with the kingdoms and royal patronages. In the later stages,
these Jogins / Basavis adopted the name ‘‘Devadasi’s.’ ‘Devadasi’s themselves
claim that there does exist a ‘‘Devadasi’ way of life’ or ‘professional
ethics(vritti, murai), but nobody is a ‘‘Devadasi’’ by caste. Later on, the
institution of ‘‘Devadasi’’ became hereditary, wherein at least one daughter in
the family was dedicated to God.
Matted hair is taken as a sign from Goddess Vellamma that
the girl is meantt to be a ‘‘Devadasi’’. In a festival, a marriage ceremony
takes place between the girl and God. The eldest lady among the ‘‘Devadasi’s’
ties the mangal sutra / tali. In some ceremonies, the girl is paraded almost
naked and is locally known as ‘betthale seve’. The girl is then given some
money, but she still has to work in the fields. She lives separately in the
village and provides services to men belonging to all castes. ‘‘Devadasi’s’
were forced to be concubines for the people of the upper castes.
The age-old practice continues to legitimize the sexual
violence and discrimination against ‘‘Devadasi’s’. Since the members from a
‘‘Devadasi’’s’ caste are not able to afford these rituals, the ceremony
sometimes is organized by men of the upper castes leaving the ‘‘Devadasi’s’ no
choice but to succumb. Like other forms of violence against women, ritualized
prostitution, is a system designed to kill whatever little is left of the
self-respect the untouchable castes have.
Aged ‘‘Devadasi’s’, who have become jogitis, often go into
trance during festivals and direct a particular family to dedicate a particular
daughter of theirs to the deity. Conversation with scheduled caste families
indicate that sometimes, it is possible that a person or persons from higher
caste who take a fancy for a schedule caste girl may pay jogiti to `go into a
trance`. Parents, who for reasons economic wanting to dedicate a girl, may even
find the plea of having found a ‘jat’ or ‘matting of hair’ on the girl, a
condition that occurs because of poor tonsorial hygiene.
State Government Programme in eradicating
‘Devadasi’ system :
‘Devadasi’ Rehabilitation project was set up in
1991 by Karnataka State Women’s Development Corporation to eradicate the
‘Devadasi’ system in Belgaum District and help those who have been exploited by
this system. Later, the WDC started economic activities with the help of
MYRADA, a voluntary organization that helped in launching this programme to
support the Govt. project in Belgaum District. A survey that was conducted
showed 3,600 ‘Devadasi’ women in Belgaum District alone. One of the first steps
taken by MYRADA was towards :
these women into groups. These groups became a forum for women to discuss
about the evils of this system and to draw mutual support in times of
some groups the women were motivated start savings.
on how to conduct meetings and maintaining accounts were provided to them.
training thus obtained helped in managing the small funds and this gave
them the confidence to maintain larger amounts.
and other financial institutions; and other Govt. agencies stepped in to
provide financial assistance.
were trained in income generating skills and Karnataka State Women’s
Development Corporation, with the assistance of social welfare dept.,
provided subsidy and loans from banks to take up income generating
panchayat, District Administration and various other government agencies,
banks provide immense support for these women to take up various
rehabilitation has ensured financial independence for them.
rout out the system that has been in existence for generations.The first
step towards eradicating the system was found to be in educating the
society against this evil. Gram sabhas and jagruti vedike comprising of
local people, the panchayat members, etc. were organized to provide
awareness to the community on the evils of the system. They discussed the
problems and the role of the community in eradicating the system.
Awareness was provided through campaigns, street plays, songs,
distribution of pamphlets, posters and folklore performances inspiring the
people into not dedicating their daughters.
programmes were organised in front of the Yellamma temple in Saudathi
region during the fairs as this temple once homed many of the practices
associated with the ‘Devadasi’ system. Messages disseminated through these
fairs reached out to wide audience all over Karnataka. Project Officers
and Members from MASS, an institution of ex-’Devadasis’ take active part
in these programmes.
women act as spies to detect and stop further dedications.
person, even under remote suspicion, is interrogated thoroughly. The
combined efforts of project officers, the community and the police have
completely stopped this practice in Belgaum district.
working with the community, the project realized that, eradicating the
‘Devadasi’ system meant much more than the economic rehabilition and
prevention of the future generation from being dedicated. The community’s
and the ‘Devadasis’ own perception of what it meant had to be changed. The
rituals that they blindly followed in the name of religion had to be
practices of joga (bagging alms) and breaking bangles were stopped and on
the day when they usually broke the bangles(full moon day in December),
the women started adorning themselves with bangles.
the following years, this event was organized in other places of the
district. The communities participated in the event and took an oath to
eradicate this practice from their villages.
hair, which was earlier considered as a blessing from the goddess, was no
more regarded and instead the community started getting the matted hair
the women were paraded by tying strings of neem leaves over their bare
body. Now, they symbolically tie the strings over their clothes.
form of exploitation of women was marrying them off to lord Hanuman. Men
would splash muddy water on these women and women in turn had to chase
them out with a stick. The belief was that this practice would bring good
rains to the village. In 1996, the district administration banned this
practice and this was followed by the discussions with the villages and
most of them agreed to discontinue this practice.
The ‘Devadasi’ system is not in practice in the district of Belgaum.
Instead, there is only a community of ex-Devdasis. These women no longer
practise the ‘Devadasi’ system. With their new formed strength and
confidence, they have come together to form an Organization called the
Mahila Abhivrudhi Matthu Samrakshana Samithi(MASS). This Organization sees
to it that this practice is not revived even after the project is
withdrawn from the district.
Special programme of Karantaka State Women’s
Development Corporation in rehabilitating ‘Devadasi’ women.
‘Devadasi’ system was so deeply rooted in the
community and was a challenge to both NGOs and the Government. With the
constant effort made by the police, voluntary organisations and media,
awareness was created among the community members; because, more than creating
awareness, it was a great task for the Govt. to provide economic stability and
social security to this vulnerable group of women.
‘Devadasi’ system is belittling the status of women. To eradicate this
anti-social system from the community the Government of Karnataka has come
out with the ‘Devadasi’ Rehabilitation Programme.
per the survey conducted by the Dept. of Women and Child Development, it
has identified the number of ‘Devadasis’ in the following districts.
BijapurSOFT TOYS FOR CHILDREN
programme is implemented in Bagalkot, Bijapur, Raichur, Koppal, Bellary,
Gulbarga, Dharwar, Gadag and Haveri districts. Implementing offices have
also been opened in all these districts.
eradication of this practice and implementation of the economic and social
development programme for the ex-’Devadasis’ in the aforesaid ten
of awareness by means of extensive awareness programmes, campaigning,
people’s movement, creation of SHGs from ex-’Devadasi’s, awareness camps
at village fairs, health camps, etc.
bank loans for income generating activities. 60% of the unit cost is
subsidized by the Corporation.
the active association of MASS, this practice has been completely stopped
in Belgaum district. The Corporation is financially supporting MASS.
Statement showing physical and financial
achievements during the past 3 years is as: