Although the Devadasi System is almost extinct now in the land of its origin due to various factors, it is no way gainsaying that it has constantly contributed to a great deal to the enrichment of" Indian Culture in general and Tamil Culture in particular, and has exerted a significant influence, both directly and indirectly, on the Indian - Tamilian socio-religious and cultural life, the past as well as the present (Dost Attam - Bharatanatyam). It has been a byword for a socio-religious institution, started with noble intentions, but decayed into a highly ignoble and injurious institution in the passage of time, and turned out into a system for prostitution in the land of its birth. It has therefore a message for the society : Any noble institution will degenerate and decay into an abominable institution if anti-social elements are allowed to have a free hand in it.
That the present generation of Indians-Tamils remains relatively ignorant of its great role in shaping the cultural tradition of the country over a long span of centuries is really amazing. This institution has exerted and extended its sway over several disciplines of human art and thought and even politics. It has greatly enriched the musical, dance, dramatic, sculptural, painting and linguistic traditions of the country. It served as one of the very powerful instruments of Saivite and Vaisnavite reclamation in South India. Its influence in the temple building activities is discernible from a mass of inscriptions and innumerable dance panels depicted in them. No doubt, it was one of the constant source of inspiration to Tamil Culture in the hoary past, even at its worst. Aware of its legacy, many native and foreign scholars have examined its role in building up of the Tamil Culture. Notable among them are Edgar Thurston, U.P. Krishnamacharya, B.A. Saletore, A. Appadorai, K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, A.S. Altekar, Jogendra Chandra Ghosh, C. Minakshi, T.V. Mahalingam, K.K. Pillay, E.P.N. Kunjan Pillai, Padma Subrahmanyam, P.Rarnachandran, M.G.S. Narayanan, Saskia Kersen-boom-Story, Frederique Apfel Marglin, etc. Nevertheless, these studies, by and large, are either piecemeal or isolated or incomplete. They are known either for their logical and philosophical, or social and religious, or aesthetic and artistic treatment. They have, therefore failed to trace the womb to tomb history of this institution. This book, therefore, aims at fulfilling this gap.
I owe a deep sense of gratitude to several professors, scholars, patrons and well wishers, who have contributed to the completeness of this study in one way or the other. My profound thanks are due to my Professor Dr. K. Rajayyan, formerly Professor of Modern History, Madurai Kamaraj University, who initiated me into the field of historical research. But for his constructive and careful comments, criticism and analysis, this work would not have seen the light of the day. I owe my indebtedness to Dr. R. Vekataraman, Reader in Aesthetics and Fine Arts, with whose graciousness I started my research career. My sincere thanks are also due to Dr. K.V. Raman, Professor and Head, Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Madras, for his constant encouragement and constructive suggestions all through the completion of this work. I record my indebtedness to Dr. T.J. Pandian, Professor and Head, School of Biological Sciences, Dr. G. Vijaya Venugopal, Professor and Head, School of Aesthetics and Fine Arts, Sri. S. Pandyan, Gandhian and Syndicate member, Dr. D.R. Rajeswari, Professor and Head, Department of History, ICC & CE., Dr. S. Manickam, Professor and Head, School of Historical Studies, Dr. N. Kanakaraj, Professor and Head, Department of Law, ICC & CE,, Sri. S. Chandrasekharan, Sr. Deputy Registrar, Madurai Kamaraj University,-Dr. Y. Subbarayalu, Professor and Head, Department of Archaeology and Epigraphy, Tamil University, Thanjavur, and Prof. C. Govindarajanar, Professor (Retd.) Department of Tamilology, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai.
The ICHR Publication grant could not be utilised for publishing my thesis earlier. Though sanctioned in 1989, the ICHR was very kind enough to renew the same enabling me to complete the publishing of the thesis. I am very much grateful to them for having given me another chance.
I record my profound thanks to the Syndicate of the Madurai Kamaraj University for having permitted me to pursue research on this subject and publish it in the form of book. I am also indebted to Dr. Vedagiri Shanmugasundaram, formerly Vice- Chancellor, Dr. S. Packiam, and Dr. M. Singaravadivelu, the former Registrars, Dr. S. Vasanthi Devi, the present Vice-Chancel for, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, for their generous encouragement in bringing out this book.
My deep sense of gratitude is also due to my parents, and my wife Tmt.D. Darling Ratnam, Selection Grade Lecturer in Mathematics, Sri Meenakshi Government College for Women, Madurai, and all my well-wishers and colleagues of my faculty and Thiru P. Kannappan, Dr. G. Karunanithi, Department of Sociology, Dr. S. Gopalakrishnan, Department of Chemistry, and Dr. S. Ganapati Raman, Director, Youth Welfare, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, for their blessings and well-wishes.
Mr. M. Easwaran, Editor, CBH Publications, had put in his sincere and earnest effort in seeing through the typesetting of this book. I thank him for his editorial efforts in completing this book. I am grateful to Smt. M. Girija, Proprietor, CBH Publications, for undertaking this book for publication, and bringing this in a nice get up.
1. Dancing-girl, Painting, Sittannavasal Cave, Pudukottai
2. Fly-whisk bearing dancing girl, Mandapa Pillar, Bhuloganalhar Temple, Tirumangalam, Mayavaram
3. Siva holding the Talaikkol, bronze image, Manavalagar Temple, Tirunallur
4. Images of Rajendra I and Nangai Paravai, Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur
5. Image of Ponnanaiyal, Tiruppuvananathar Temple Tiruppauvanam
6. Ponnanaiyal Pinching the cheek of Lord Siva, Tiruppuvananathar Temple, Tiruppuvanam
7. Painting, Manikka Nacchiyar and Sanniyasi, Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur
8. Panel showing training scene in music, Amman Shrine, Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
9. Mattala Perumal, Mandapa Pillar, Bhuloganathar Temple, Tirumangalam, Mayavaram
10. Cymbalist and dancing-girl, Mayuranathar Temple, Mayavaram
11. Chinna mattala-player, Amman Shrine, Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
12. Idakkai-player, second prakara, Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvarur
13. Big mattala-player, Kilikkudu mandapa pillar, Minakshi Amman Temple, Madurai
14. Danving-girl playing on the flute, Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvararur
15. Painting, cymbalist and drummer, Rajarajesvaram, Thanjavur
16. Musical troupe of Devadasis Amman shrine, Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.