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Devadasi (mainly of Maharashtra and Karnataka states) and related practices (Maharis in Kerala, Natis in Assam, Muralis in Maharashtra, Bogams in Andhra Pradesh, Jogatis and Basavis in Karnataka, and Thevardiyar in Tamil Nadu) are found all over India.

Devadasi are female oblates of a god, ritually married to them at puberty. Young girls are apprenticed or bound to a temple by their parents, seeking to please the gods. Traditionally they were of high status, had considerable freedom, and were trained to be temple dancers, serving in temple ceremonies, and also sexually initiating young men, but over the centuries their function and status have declined to the point where most today are the low-caste sexual servants of priests, who often pimp for them. Any girls born to a devadasi also become devadasi. There are still many thousands of girls and women in devadasi positions.

The story of Andar is similar. See also the similar institution of Trokosi in Ghana.


Shankar, Jogan. Devadasi Cult: A Sociological Analysis. 2nd ed. (New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, 1994)
Free the Slaves = Anti-Slavery International. "Glossary." Available at:
"The Devadasi Tradition." Available at:


18th Century
19th Century
20th Century
21st Century
Poor Educational Opportunities, Self-taught
Oblates, Dedicated to God
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
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