What is a Devadasi?


You might not know this word, but it’s an ancient religious practice that still ensnares young girls in India today into a life of sexual exploitation.

In India, devadasi means “servant of god.” Young girls are “married” to an idol, deity, or temple. These girls are often from the lowest castes in India—their parents have given them to temples as human offerings in order to appease the gods.

In the local language, they have a saying about devadasis: “Servant of god, but wife of the whole town.” In reality, they are sexual slaves, and devadasi girls are forbidden from marrying. And they have to earn their own income by begging in the streets.

India’s government outlawed the practice in 1988, but it persists in south India, where there are an estimated 50,000 devadasis.

Samita was offered to a temple as a devadasi. She was just a young girl.

Day after day, Samita was sexually assaulted in the temple. And then she went from home to home, singing the songs of a local goddess and begging for money in order to survive.

At 45 years old, Samita was going door to door as usual when she came across a house where Christian believers gathered for worship. It was a church newly started by a Mission India Church Planter, Utpal.

She listened at the door as Utpal spoke about Jesus Christ.

And Samita was desperate to know rest and peace in the love of Jesus.

After the final prayer, Samita walked in.

“I am ready to leave my goddess, who has made me a prostitute,” she said, tears in her eyes. “Can you tell me more about Jesus?”

Utpal gladly shared about Jesus and prayed with Samita—and a glimmer of peace touched her heart for the very first time. Utpal invited Samita to come back to the house church every week, and she did!

In time, Samita received Jesus as her personal Saviour and left her devadasi life behind for good.

Now, Samita is working for daily wages in the village fields. She is joyful because she knows Jesus Christ as her Saviour! Samita regularly tells others in the community about the Good News of Jesus and His goodness towards her.