By Lucinda Ramberg

Who and what are marriage and intercourse for? Whose practices and which methods of chatting with god can count number as faith?

Lucinda Ramberg considers those questions established upon years of ethnographic learn on an ongoing South Indian perform of commitment during which women, and infrequently boys, are married to a goddess. referred to as devadasis, or jogatis, these committed turn into male and female girls who behavior the rites of the goddess outdoor the partitions of her major temple and transact in intercourse outdoors the boundaries of conjugal matrimony.

Marriage to the goddess, in addition to the rites that the commitment rite authorizes jogatis to accomplish, have lengthy been visible as illegitimate and criminalized. Kinship with the goddess is efficient for the households who commit their childrens, Ramberg argues, and but it can't agree to smooth conceptions of gender, relatives, or faith. This nonconformity, she indicates, speaks to the restrictions of recent different types, in addition to to the chances of relations—between and between people and deities—that exceed such different types.

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In 1934 the Bombay Devadasi Protection Act was passed. A similar act was passed in Madras in 1947. 34 Once highly sophisticated choreographers, musicians, and ritual performers whose education and wealth was exceeded only by women who were members of royal families, devadasis became illegitimately public women whose exile from the space of the temple was seen to be necessary to the moral uplift of women, religion, and nation. These histories of appropriation and exile exemplify the demands that anticolonial nationalism made on the Indian body.

Trident, pot, spear. . All these objects can be interpreted as synonyms of the goddess or as the sakti of the god. The actual ‘marriage’ ceremony becomes, due to this symbolism, rather a ‘merger’ with the goddess” (1987, 78). In the ethnography that follows, I am building on this recognition of the auspiciousness of the devadasi, but by attending to how and where auspiciousness emerges in concrete and material practices I move beyond the limitations of a symbolic anthropology in which persons appear as signs rather than as actors.

The landlord saw her eating from his fields and became angry. He ran into the fields swinging his scythe and shouting. Shouting and shouting, swinging his arms and that scythe. Yellamma ran and ran to escape him. She ran into the Dalit quarter (harijan keri),1 she was running and running to get away from the landlord. Even into the harijan keri she ran to escape him. 1 Durgabai. Photograph by Brett Fisher. cealed herself in the tanning pits under an elephant hide. The landlord followed Yellamma into Matangi’s house.

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