The mystical Devadasi dance is the mysterious and unique dance that connects a sacred bridge between a dignified dancer and a Devine entity. Popularly this dance form found its origin in the temples.
In the initial period, the dancer was confined to entertain Lords only. They were not meant to amuse common folk. Generally in the ancient period, parents offered their daughter to deities or a temple before the attainment of their puberty. Hence they were supposed to not marry anyone else in their lives. Mostly, this Devadasi tradition was prevalent in South India. Generally, they were married to temple Lords by the means of spiritual ceremony.
After becoming devadasis, these young ladies dedicated their entire lives to learning religious rituals, rites and dance. Generally, they were trained in different dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Odissi. Actually, the definite origin of the devadasi tradition is unknown to history. Some historians claimed that this practice had been continuing from the time of Buddha. The tradition of dancing girls is said to have flourished during the third century AD.
Even the eminent poet Kalidasa in Meghaduta mentioned such temple dancers in his literary creation. Devadasis were deeply rooted and dedicated dancers who sacrificed their complete lives to amuse supernatural shrines in a sublime way by a choice. A complete submission of an entire body with a fusion of soul to the grand deities is otherwise known as devadasi tradition. Some times it was known as sacred prostitution where the dedication of these dancers was performed through religious rituals like (Diksha).
Here, these great women controlled their natural impulses and totally offered themselves to God spiritually and emotionally towards a transcendental meditation. In ancient India, southern parts like Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh had devadasi tradition prevalent. At the time of Chalukya king, Vikramaditya 1, temple dancing tradition was prevalent. In Kashmir, dancing girls were also attached to the temples.
Not only in India, even western countries like Cambodia, Missouri, Egypt, Greece, Babylon, exhibited such ritual dances in ancient times. In most cases, kings were fascinated by these dancers. To promote such a tradition, they built beautiful temples and remunerated these dancers. In most cases, devadasis received fixed remuneration and some landed property for their livelihood. Mostly along with Lords, temple priests, kings, and affluent persons also enjoyed their performances.
There is also evidence of these traditional dance practices in the ancient temples of Rome and South America. The tradition was also prevalent in the grand temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. It was otherwise known as Mahari Dance where these dancers were pledged to appease the grand Lords at the time of their retirement to sleep. Gradually, devadasi dance lost its spiritual significance and charm.
It became a source of lust and amusement for the powerful persons, nobles and some influential priests. However, this devotional purified form of dance which was only meant to entertain deities became polluted. Sometimes, the purity of this tradition was sacrificed when women were forced into prostitution. The magnificent values of devadasi dancer became degraded to mere entertainer due to ample manipulation and exploitation. Predators in the guise of influential people targeted these dancers to satisfy their illegitimate desires.
Hence in free India, the reformers were forced to abolish this ritualistic practice.