800-year-old Devadasi tradition ends; Lord Jagannath's last human wife dies at 92

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Puri, Mar 20: The 800-year-old Devadasi tradition in the 12th century Jagannath Temple is likely to end here as the lone active Mahari (Devadasi), Sashimani Devi passed away on Friday.

Devadasi tradition ends at Jagannath

Sashimani had been a Devadasi in the temple since 7 years of age after being ceremonially married to Lord Jagannath, temple officials said.

Sashimani, 92, died at the residence of Somanath Pujapanda, her foster son at Dolamandap Sahi, close to the temple, family sources said. She was suffering from old age aliments and had become invalid after being hit by a stray bull five years ago.

Sahimani, who received Rs 1,000 each per month as renumeration from the temple administration and state government respectively, was keen to perform the role of a Devadasi in the ensuing Nabakalebar, which is likely to be affected.

She had performed the role of devadasi during Nabakalebar festivals held in 1977 and 1996. Recently, Odisha government's culture department had provided Rs 25,000 for Sashimani's treatment. Her mortal remains will be cremated at Swargadwar after arrival of sacred fire from the Temple kitchen.

A number of senior priests and eminent persons of the temple city paid their homage to Sashimani.

According to tradition, the devadasis, who accept Lord Jagannath as their husband, observe all rituals followed by Hindu women after death of their husbands.

As the Lord changes his wooden body during the Nabakalebara, the devadasis become widows and observe the rituals. Sashimani was expected to perform the ritual this time.

With death of Sashimani, the shrine is now left with only one Devadasi named Parasmani Devi. She is, however, not an active Davadasi like Sashimani, said Devadutta Samantasinghar, a researcher in Devadasi tradition in Puri.

Parasamani had been staying at a rented house and not was attached to temple rituals since long though she performed her role for a long time. Samantasinghar said, "The devadasis of Puri are highly respected in the society here and not looked down upon by people in other places."

The Record of Rights (RoR) of the temple indicated that there were about 25 Devadasis in Puri about 100 years ago, Orissa Gazette of 1956 lists 9 Devadasis and 11 musicians in Puri temple.

When there were only four Devadasis (Harapriya, Kokilaprava, Parshmani and Sashimani) in Puri temple by 1980, in 2015 the only surviving active Devadasi was Parashamani.

OneIndia News

(With inputs from PTI)

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