Deva Dasi

The Temple Dancers of Ancient India


Historically the temple dancers of India were influential women who were not only acclaimed for their artistry but also for their untold wealth and their influence in politics. So great was the power of their art that they conversed with royalty as equals. But through the passage of time and social changes like colonization, the deva dasi system was abolished. If not for the pioneering efforts of a few good people in the early part of this century the art of the Deva Dasi would have been lost for ever.

Efforts have been made by several artists to bring out the singular beauty of some of the ancient dance forms practiced by these women. Dance forms such as the Sadir which reigned supreme in South India for centuries, Kuchipudi where the dancer performs balanced on the edge of a brass plate, Mohini Attam the dance of the enchantress and Orissi where the dancer pines for spiritual union with her Lord through the metaphor of human infatuation and love.