Joginis: Offered to the gods and preyed upon
By Yunus Lasania | ENS - HYDERABAD
30th November 2012 09:28 AM
Twenty-four years ago, when Kathi Posani was six years old, her brother fell sick. Her parents prayed to the gods and offered her as a devadasi to the temple if he was cured.
The boy got better, and Posani, now 30, has been a jogini ever since, ostensibly ‘married’ to the temple and a servant of the god, but in reality prey to every lustful man in the village.
Posani is from Velpur village in Nizamabad district. She makes a living by making beedis and working in the fields. “I don’t really have a problem now,” she says. “I go to the temple only once a year.” But hundreds of girls in the state continue to suffer the fate of being a jogini, in a custom that refuses to die.
Posani was in Hyderabad Thursday along with 150 other joginis from nine districts of Andhra Pradesh where the system persists. Their purpose was to attend a public hearing on the devadasi system, conducted by an NGO, Ashray.
S Sharada, 29, also from Posani’s village, became a jogini after she fell sick and prayed to the god for a cure and offered herself as a jogini for the benevolence. “My husband left me 12 years ago. After that I began to fall sick often. So I prayed to the god and I was cured. So I became a jogini five years ago,” she said.
M Rajamma, a housewife from Anantapur, explained that many women volunteer to become devadasis out of a superstitious belief that they will in service of the gods. “Superstition thrives in such families and these women and girls fall prey to them,” she said.
The joginis are at times treated as outcasts. No one is willing to marry them, and their children are considered illegitimate.
Ellamma, 20, from Muchetlapalli village in Anantapur district, became a jogini when she was a child, and does not even remember how old she was when that happened. “I was not well, and the elders in the village told me to offer myself as a jogini, and then I’d be cured,” Ellamma said. Today, she says people ignore her or treat her differently because of who she is. However, things are not so bad in her village and as she is soon getting married.
While the sting has been taken out of the jogini system in several places, some continue to suffer from its odium. One jogini who was at the hearing but did not want to be named said that after being a ‘temple prostitute’ from more than 25 years, she felt abused and disempowered.
B Vimala, a jogini from Anantapur, verbalised it best when she said, “I was left to fend for myself after I was offered as a jogini when I was a child. Even my child is looked down upon, and I have nothing to look forward to. Everyone looks down upon me when it is they who made me like this.”
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