Nityasumangali: Devadasi Tradition In South India


15. The 'Devadasi Act' was passed on 26-11 1947; the full text is found in the archives of the Government of Madras, Law (legislative) Department, G.O. No. 23, January 26, 1948: Acts - The 'Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act, 1947, Pub]. Madras Act. XXXI of 1947: "Whereas the practice still prevails in certain parts of the Province of Madras of dedicating women as "devadasis" to Hindu deities, idols, objects of worship, temples and other religious institutions. And whereas such practice, however ancient and pure in its origin, leads many of the women so dedicated to a life of prostitution; and whereas it is necessary to put an end to the practice; It is hereby enacted as follows: 1. (1) This Act may be called the Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act, 1947. (2) It extends to the whole of the Province of Madras. 2. In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context-(a) "dedication" means the performance of any ceremony, by whatever name called, by which a woman is dedicated to the service of a Hindu deity, idol, object of worship, temple or other religious institution, and includes 'poitukattu', 'gaijepitia', ' mudri' and dancing by 'kumbhaharatliy'; (b) "devadasi" means any woman so dedicated; (c) "woman" means a female of any age. 3. (1) The dedication of a woman as a devadasi, whether before or after the commencement of this Act and whether she has consented to such dedication or not, is hereby declared unlawful and void; and any woman so dedicated shall not thereby be deemed to have become incapable of entering into a valid marriage. Nothing contained in this sub-section shall be deemed to affect the operation of section 44-A of the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1926, or the rights to which a devadasi is entitled under that section. (2) Any custom or usage prevailing in any Hindu community such as the Bogum, Kalavanthulu, Sani, Nagavasulu, Devadasi and Kurmapulu, that a woman of that community who gives or takes part in any melam (nautch), dancing or music performance in the course of any procession or otherwise is thereby regarded as having adopted a life of prostitution and becomes incapable of entering into a valid marriage, and the performance of any ceremony or act in accordance with any such custom or usage, whether before or after the commencement of this Act and whether the woman concerned has consented to such performance or not, are hereby declared unlawful and void. (3) Dancing by a woman with or without kiimbhaharathy in the precincts of any temple or other religious institution, or in any procession of a Hindu deity, idol or object of worship installed in any such temple or institution or at any festival or ceremony held in respect of such a deity, idol or object of worship is hereby declared unlawful." A penalty for dedication after November 26, 1947 was stipulated as follows: either six months imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 500,-or both for any person of the age of sixteen or more who dances in contravention of the provisions under section 3, subsection (3).

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