The ‘devadasi’ system has been the object of several studies and is quite controversial. Some authors, particularly in the past associated the ‘devadasi’ with power and prestige, other, more lately, with degradation and prostitution. This article firstly explores the origin of ‘devadasi’ practice and its evolution over time as well as its religious and ritual meaning, while attempting to identify the main factors explaining the signification of the ‘devadasi’ system in the past. Secondly it analyses the social status and economic condition of ‘devadasis’ and draws a global view of the reasons why young girls are still today consecrated in rural areas. Our argument is that the sanctions provided by social custom and apparently by religion are strictly combined with economic and social pressures. The social control and hegemonic masculinity of upper caste men is asserted and maintained through defilement and appropriation of lower caste and ‘dalit’ women’s sexuality. The symbolic meaning of the devadasis relies upon the gendering and sexualising of caste relations of domination and subordination. In this logic, this article examines the intersections between gender, caste and violence.
Torri, Maria Costanza
Abuse of Lower Castes in South India: The Institution of Devadasi.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 11(2), 31-48.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol11/iss2/3