The Devadasi stigma: Servants of the Goddess

July 8, 2014
Author: Catherine Rubin Kermorgant
Publisher: Random House India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788184004625
Rating: ★★★★☆
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‘Those born as women see much grief,

But I’ll not look at it’,

Says the sun and he hides himself;

Our Dark Lord, with red lips and great eyes,

Who once measured this earth,

He too will not come…

So who will save this long life of mine

That finds no end at all?


An American documentarian comes to India in search of a compelling story for her documentary. She heads for Belgaum and comes across a distinct world where age old rituals are still prevalent and where women are disregarded as well as revered at the same time.


In Servants of the Goddess, Catherine Rubin Kermorgant takes us into the world of ‘Devadasis’ or women turned into prostitutes, so they can sexually serve men to please the gods.

The story is set in a small village named Kalyana where young girls are dedicated to the goddess Yellamma. The girls, unaware of their future, are then sent to big cities like Mumbai where they are made prostitutes to earn their living. The system of devdasis has been prevalent in India since ancient times. Women were treated as courtesans and performed in temples to please the gods. Though many might believe that this tradition has been eradicated long ago, this book revisits this very stigma of our society.

Though a work of non-fiction, the book is so well written that you will never get bored. Catherine has made sure that once we start, we will keep going. The author has developed each and every character so well that you will come to empathize with the women. The book gets deeper and deeper as we move on. Be it the lives of the women, the filmmaking or the village politics, the author has poured her heart out in every page of the book. This book is surely a story of oppression but also of resilience and liberation. The ladies are birds of fire who want to soar high in the sky but are subdued by society.

‘Why should I give her to Yellamma? I’m not afraid. Yellamma has gone into the hands of the government. She is sitting quietly. She’s blindfolded – her hands are tied now!’

Through the book, we meet these strong and wonderful ladies who have got so much pain and suffering in their lives and yet they are always seeing the brighter side of things. Kermorgant is a brilliant writer. She has made such a dark story lively, colorful and funny and that in itself is laudable.

Great story, vividly told. Poignant, yet funny. If you are looking for a thought provoking read, go for it. Don’t forget to check out the official website of the book to know more about the characters.

In a nutshell, fascinating is what I think the book was.

Hooked? We have more! Author Catherine Rubin Kermorgant talks to us about how she stumbled upon the devadasi cult in Kalyana, her journey of crafting this book and the efforts she has been taking to help the women of this community in this exclusive

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