Mysticism- a complex term that has varied definitions across. If I had to put this term in simpler terms it would be as follows. Mysticism is a spiritual discipline used to make a contact with the divine. India has numerous places of worship that have some sort of mysticism associated with it.
But are some of these mystical practices good for the society we live in? Here is a bit about a lesser known temple in Karnataka – Yellamma Guda Temple.
Yellamma Guda temple is the temple of Renuka Devi, at Saundatti village, Karnataka, India. The temple hosts the Yellamma Jatara Festival every year, where over two lakh people take part to worship the deity Yellamma Devi (also known as Renuka).
The Yellamma Gudi temple is known for its ancient traditions, going back centuries. It speaks of faith in abundance and rituals aplenty. One such age old tradition of the temple is the “Devadasi System” where young girls are dedicated to the temple by way of marriage. Once dedicated, they become a property of the temple and are to be dutiful to its spiritual needs. This not only encompasses appeasing the deity by way of chaste rituals, but it also includes singing and dancing before the village chiefs, satisfying the sexual urges of the priest and the menfolk of the community. The girls are generally from poor households who are born weak, sick or with deformities. Years ago, there were elaborate dedication ceremonies, where the girls were paraded naked. But with the “Devadasi Prohibition Act” this has been discontinued.
Something got me thinking here, the fact that despite the Act and the spread of awareness by numerous NGO’s this mystical practice continues till date- but in secrecy. You may still find people offering their girls, those who come to the temple covered in neem leaves, and performing the customary ritual of being offered to the deity- all in secrecy.
Despite a Devadasi Prohibition Act, the practice continues in some parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra till date.
- These women are denied basic rights and live in such pitiable conditions that most take up prostitution for a living.
- Children born out of such relationships carry on a life of misery, with minimal or no schooling owing to poverty and social outcast.
- Most are later sold to red-light districts in bigger cities such as Pune or Mumbai by priests, who act as pimps.
*All photo credits in this blog post goes to Julia Cumes. Julia Cumes is a photographer based on Cape Cod, MA. She specializes in photojournalism, environmental portraiture, travel and editorial photography as well as fine art photography. Her website is juliacumes.com
This is a part of my journey exploring 26 lesser known shades of a country called India, with the #AtoZChallenge 2016!!!