Weaving in trance, drenched in sacred healing turmeric, devadasis ‘handmaidens of the Goddess’ sway through the crowds, with images of goddess Yellama balanced on their heads, a renewal of the life force at her yearly festival. Auspicious but impure, according to Medieval temple records, devadasis brought critical income to the temples. Clients made offerings for physical union with the Goddess in the form of devadasis. Today, Yellama’s devotees are mostly bonded laborers who till the soil for landlords, and many devadasis find themselves in Mumbai red light districts. HIV and STD run rampant in these communities.
Saundatti, Karnataka, India.