Saturday, March 1, 2014

Devdasis: The Broken-Winged Birds


My recent visits to cultural attributes of east and south India made me think over the status of women in India, which is so well excogitated on the carvings on temple walls, so consecratly presented in Meghdhuta by Kalidasa. It was when I started reading more about the Devdasis in India.

They are renounced, they are researched, they are reflected on, but are they respected?

Devdasi is actually a girl "dedicated" to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life. The dedication is similar in some ways to marriage. Traditionally devadasis had a high status in society. Along with the deity they served wealthy patrons and kings, their children were also taught their skills of music or dance and were apprenticed in the culture of silence.

During British rule in the Indian subcontinent, kings who were the patrons of temples and temple arts became powerless. As a result, devadasis were left without their traditional means of support and patronage. Hence few were forced into prostitution; this also became convenient way of disposition of impaired and unwanted girl child. Later it became enceinte illegal racket of buying, selling under aged girls.

Legally speaking, the devadasi system was outlawed in all of India in 1988; and two states in the survey conducted by India's National Commission for Women have already declared it eradicated. Yet through a legal binding in the most recent event of Valentine’s Day, Supreme Court of India was forced to declare mandatory precautionary steps to be taken to prevent women from being forced to become 'devadasis' at a temple function in Karnataka. This confirms the immortality of the wretched establishment in our country, still.  

As a part of their conditioning, women voluntarily prostitute themselves into the auction and groom themselves toward the highest exchange. This arena exchanges everything with nothing worthwhile; subsequently suits the trademark for poverty, illiteracy, and galore of health issues.

The issue is graver then what it appears; India is home to 638 million people defecating in the open; over 50 per cent of the population. It’s not just the matter of unhygienic practices and numerous diseases that are spread due to open air defecation. What is not calculable is the immense shame and humility that women undergo while defecating out in the open; in bushes or ditches, along railway tracks or in fields. Coping with menstruation in the absence of any real privacy is also detrimental to a woman’s sense of dignity and health. In many cultures, women who lack safe access to sanitation or have no access at all may end up waiting until it is dark to go to the toilet, have to walk long distances to find an isolated spot or use public amenities. This exposes them to an increased risk of being shamed, sexual harassment, and assaults.

This recent strive by the Navneetha group of women of Tiruchirappalli district in Tamil Nadu are working hard to improve their quality of life by adopting securer sanitation facilities for their little ones. Milaap Project is the ray of hope to provide better future for women and children of the village. We can all help them escape the direct and indirect outlays of speculative sanitation services, help in earning their respect back, allowing the devdasis another chance to life. Contribute generously to support this endeavor by the rural women of Tamil Nadu, be a part of hope project and click on the link below.
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