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Nityasumangali: Devadasi Tradition in South India

Saskia C. Kersenboom (Author)
Synopsis The phenomenon of the devadasi has suffered greatly from faulty, culture-bound evaluations. The present monograph does not aim at judging these earlier evaluations, nor does it claim to give a ‘truly objective’ description of what the devadasi tradition was; it rather tries to follow the inherent mode of thought, namely, what the devadasi tradition meant within the frame of Hinduism, and its transformation into a living cultural phenomenon functioning significantly in the context of the Hindu tradition. In this attempt the author has first investigated the concept of the devadasi as found in the cultural history of South India, especially of Tamilnadu. Hereafter the function and form of the devadasi tradition are examined within the Temple Ritual of Tamilnadu. Data from Sanskrit Agamas, commentaries, Tamil sources, informants’ accounts and from the actual repertoire of the devadasis have been woven into a coherent structure. Finally, it is the devadasi herself, as a ritual person, who is the most significant marker of her tradition. The rites of passage that transform an ordinary girl into a devadasi, her wedding and artistic training and her funeral honours are described in the last chapter. In short, this is not the study of the fact of the devadasi tradition, but of its meaning and the mode of production of that meaning.
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About the author

Saskia C. Kersenboom

Saskia C. Kersenboom, studied Indology at the University of Utrecht (Holland). She obtained her Ph.D. in Dravidology under the guidance of Prof. Dr. K.V. Zvelebil. She is trained in Classical Bharata Natyam by Smt. Nandini Ramani (Smt. T. Balasarasvati School, Madras) and studied Karnatic vocal music with Sri B. Krishnamoorthy. From Smt. P. Ranganayaki Cunnan she inherited the repertoire of songs and dances as practised by the devadasis of the Sri Subrahamanya Temple at Tiruttani. At present she is Associate Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam; she is a guest-teacher at several conservatories and Ballet Academies in Holland and performs regularly.

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Bibliographic information

Title Nityasumangali: Devadasi Tradition in South India
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1998
Edition Reprint
Language: English
isbn 8120803302
length xxii+226p., Tables; Figures; Notes; Bibliography; Index; 25cm.