New Delhi— This is our third story in the series of Devdasi Culture and here we will highlight the caste, and socio-economic condition of Devdasis. Why are the Devdasis forced to live such a miserable life in the 21stcentury? Y.J Rajendra, Professor of Sociology at St. Joseph University of Bengaluru and National Secretary of People Union of Civil Liberties has worked with the Devdasis and has closely observed the socio-economic aspect of their lives. He speaks to the team of The Mooknayak.
Madigas account for the maximum share of Devdasis
Speaking to The Mooknayak Rajendra says that caste plays a major role in Devdasi Culture. In today’s world, the caste aspect has been exposed. Referring to the NHRC report, he says that it is a commendable job. But it remains to be seen that how useful have been the notices sent to the state governments.
Referring to the Devdasis, he says that 95% of them are Dalits and 5% Adivasis. The lack of education leads them to a life of superstition.
Talking about the castes, he says that the Devdasis mostly belong to the Madiga,Nayka and Chalvadi communities of the Scheduled Castes. Their socio-economic condition is not good. They are found in the Northern areas of Maharashtra and the adjoining parts of south Maharashtra, apart from other areas of South India.
Devdasi AND THE LACK OF EDUCATION
He further says that they don’t have land or any business and most of them(these communities) work as labourers. This also happens with Devdasis. He adds that almost 90% Devdasis are illiterates and therefore are ill-equipped to work and their children also are illiterate and the ones who manage to go to school, drop out after some time.
He delineates the link between illiteracy and financial deprivation. The illiteracy of the Devdasis forces them to work as labourers or resort to sex work. Refuting the perception that all the Devdasis work as Sex workers to eke out a living, he says that nearly 30 to 40% Devdasis chose this profession. The rest of them live off as agriculture labourers.
Rejected by their own children
Touching on another aspect of their life, the professor says that they are estranged from their families. There are many families who made their child Devdasis out of religiosity only to sever the ties later. This also involves not sharing their property with them. It has also been observed that in old age even their children abandon them. This is usually done by the male child.
As far as the female child is concerned, they also have to pass through the same circumstances. Firstly, they do not get work due to the lack of education and secondly, they are stigmatized because of being children of Devdasis. On being probed about the marriage of the girl child of the Devdasis, Rajendra says that even if they somehow get married, it does not last long.
He tells that many times the relatives get them married without confiding about the Devdasi status of their mother, but as soon as the grooms family learns this fact, they call off the marriage. Very few people are able to accept the daughter of Devdasi. Many times, it has been seen that Devdasis make the girls follow them and become Devdasis.
Danik Bhaskar, in its report mentions that one Devdasi made her daughter Devdasi because she thought that she is mentally retarded and no one would marry her.
A Pension of 1500 not enough to subsist on
Elucidating on the financial condition of the Devdasis, he says that the Devdasis registered with the government get rs 1500, which is not enough to make the ends meet. In such a scenario Devdasis are perforced to work as sex worker, which inflicts a lot of mental agony and also contributes to a distressed life.
The inability to get an Insurance card
Referring to the physical health of the Devdasis, professor reveals that on many occasions, when they fall ill, they are unable to get the treatment as, to avail the benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Yojana they need to get themselves registered. He tells that most of the Devdasis are illiterate and have no idea as to which officer to approach for the registration. Lack of education also prevents them from accessing the health insurance and therefore grapple with ill health.
The illegal perpetuation outside the Temple
Be informed that this practice was banned by the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in 1982 and 1988 respectively. But, this practice continues unabated even after 40 years. We asked professor the reasons behind the persistence of this tradition.
Drawing a breath, he says, that making laws and getting it sanctified in society are two different things. He says that it is true that a law has been made and Devdasi culture has ended in Temples. He says that Devdasis were revered by people, in the initial years owing to their faith. But some social evils have crept in, and some rackets are also involved.
He emphasizes that the ritual is not conducted openly and that the ceremony to ordain as DEVDASI does not take place in the Temple. The racket involves some Devdasis and priests as accomplices, Who inveigle the people by promising affluence, and happiness; if they manage to reel in some people, the ceremony is conducted outside the temple on a designated day.
Story Translated by Pratikshit Singh