Devadasis are South India’s traditional temple dancers. They’ve been around for thousands of years and are well-known all around the world. In ancient India, the Devadasi was known as God’s maid. They rose to popularity in the 11th century as a result of their association with South Indian temple culture. Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala were all home to this art form. People always dwell around the question, who are Devadasis?
Devadasis were temple dwellers who were praised by rulers. Several of them have been honored as Lord Krishna’s brides since the 10th century for their devotion to religion and prayer.
Maharis was another name for Devadasis. In this context, it is thought that they play a role as dancers in temples and in numerous public rites associated with the worship of Lord Krishna. Although ancient scriptures such as the Vedas and Upanishads do not mention Devadasis (servants of God), organized idol worship in temples throughout the early centuries led to the Puranas tradition of devoting women to temples.
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The glory of Hoysala temples
The Hoysala temples demonstrate the historical significance of Devadasis and how they were an integral component of society during the period. There are 38 beautiful art forms of dancing female artists in the temples. The Hoysala temples, built between the 11th and 14th centuries, are a collection of divine structures located in the Hassan and Mysuru districts of Karnataka, India.
The Hoysala monarchs were outstanding art and architectural supporters. The Hoysala era is credited with 124 temples, 103 of which are located in Karnataka. Apart from the famed Chennakeshava temple; the Veera Narayana temple in Belur, the Kesava temple in Somanathapur, and the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu are also impressive constructions.
These temples’ beautiful carvings depict precise scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagwat Gita, as well as a variety of ornamental motifs including birds, animals, flowers, and leafy scrolls. Inside the temples, exquisite patterns depict dancing Devadasis (celestial maidens) representing many aspects of human existence carved into the pillars.
Who are Devadasis – Exploring The Unexplained
The Chennakeshava temple at Belur is typical of the Hoysala school of architecture with many specialties which include exquisite carvings of Bracket figures, this includes male and female dancers. The main shrine is dedicated to Vishnu (in the form of Chennakeshava). The sculpture in the hall leading to the sanctum exhibits a distinct regional style. Here we have focused on the brackets and the beautiful lady sculptures created inside.
Different forms of male and female dancers
Darpana Sundari (The Lady with a mirror)
Darpana Sundari is a lovely young lady with braided hair and a mirror in her left hand. She looks to be doing the finishing touches to her makeup. These idols have a captivating beauty. The statue’s standing stance, as well as the contour of her torso, waist, face, and hands, are all incredibly expressive and lovely. By glancing in the mirror, she appears to be appreciating her own attractiveness.
The idol’s varied accessories, such as the earrings, necklace, long chain, waistline, anklets, arm bangles, armlet, and shoulder ornaments, give the figure a pleasant appearance.
Shuka Bashini (Lady with a parrot)
The lovely lady in this statue appears to be chatting with a parrot. On her left wrist, a bird is perched. It’s possible that the lady is speaking with the parrot in order for her message to reach her admirer. The sculpture’s curl patterns show off the time’s incredibly accomplished craftspeople. The sculpture is a whole tale within itself.
Vasanta Sundari (The lady with betel leaves)
The lady is carrying a syringe in her right hand and betel leaves in her left. On either side of the sculpture’s bottom, there are women maids. One is preparing the color water, while the other is holding a pot and assisting. The statue’s creepers are exquisitely sculpted.
The idea of ladies and religion is shown in this artwork. The tint of the creeper in the background is lovely and true to life. As a nice gesture, the women maids are concentrating on cooking and other work that might be beneficial to the lady.
Shuka Vani Sundari (Parrot and betel lady)
A parrot is perched on the lady’s right arm, and she is carrying a betel leaf, which is said to indicate speech. Shukavani Sundari is the name given to the statue for this reason. The statue expresses a beautiful gesticulated face motion.
Koti Kupite (Provoked Lady)
A mischievous monkey is pulling the loose end of her garment. Hence, the lady is in an angry mood. With a small twig, the lady is trying to drive away from the monkey. Her face appears to be perplexed. We can see the bracelet on both the legs of the idol.
Shikari Sundari (Hunting Lady)
This is a remarkable gesture of a huntress. The huntress is aiming at a parrot. The huntress is wearing a bracelet on her legs. A lady attendant is helping her in this remarkable gesture of the sculpture.
Kesha Sundari (Lady dressing her hair)
This beautiful lady is dressing her hair after a bath. She is squeezing out the water from her hair. Hermit servants on either side are ready with decorative items and cosmetics.
Tribhangi – Nrutya Sundari (Tri style dancing lady)
The lady is holding a musical instrument called damru, which is a small musical drum, in her left hand raised above and playing on the instrument with her right hand.
This dance involves three poses of the body at the same time. The lady is dancing on her right foot and her left foot is raised to a small extent. This type of dancing is said to be the most difficult style of dancing involving rhythmic steps. This dance is also called drum dance.
Dwibahu Kapala Durga
The crowned lady is holding a pointed weapon ‘Shula’ in her right hand and a kapala (bowl) in her left hand. Her two assistants are playing drums on either side at the bottom.
Nartana Lole (Lady dancing with a drum)
A lady is holding a drum in her left hand and beating the drum with a stick from her right hand simultaneously dancing. We can even observe the tiny ropes of the drum and shows her grip over the rope. It exhibits her control over the tone of the drum which has been clearly expressed. There are two lady assistants at the bottom playing the musical instruments.
Gaana Sundari (Singing beauty)
This image is of a lady artist singing and dancing along with her co-artists. The co-artist is playing musical instruments. The left hand of the image is broken. The beautiful carvings of creepers on the aureole are attractive.
Natya Mohini (Dancing star)
It appears that the image is of Mohini in a dancing posture and competing with demon Bhasmasura. At the end of the performance, she just placed her right hand on her head and the demon followed the dancer automatically and burnt himself. The images are very beautiful and enchanting. In the carving of a chiseled creeper, on the aureole, a fly is sitting on a small jackfruit, and nearby there is a lizard crouching to jump on its prey. This is exhibited with the minute and delicate carvings. The sculpturist is trying to depict that wherever there are sweet particles, there will be a fly and there will be a lizard.
Rudra Veena Sundari (Lady with Rudra Veena)
The lady is playing Rudra Veena (a stringed musical instrument) in her right hand by holding the instrument in her left hand. One of her assistants is playing the drum and another is holding a musical instrument.
As she is holding and playing the Rudra veena the idol is called ‘Rudra veena Sundari’. Rudra Veena is said to be one of the special equipment amongst the divine musical instruments. The other lady assistants are playing with talas.
Gunguru Koodalina (forelock)Sundari (Lady with curly hairs)
The young and beautiful lady is arranging her forelock with her right hand and viewing herself in a mirror by holding the mirror in her left hand. The maidservant is looking at her astonishingly. One more lady assistant on the left side of the idol is holding sandalwood paste and flowers. The idol is also called kutila kuntala. It conveys that even in the olden days there was the artistic dressing of hair.
The sculptures of Devadasi are diverse, detailed, and interesting. They are deserving of attention and preservation just by looking at them. There are many different types of female dancing sculptures, making it difficult to summarise in a single blog article, for more information, see our next blog post.
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