Last devdasi of Puri's Jagannath temple dies aged 92

The last living Mahari — human consort — of the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Sashimani Devi, passed away on Thursday bringing an end to the 800-year-old tradition.

FP Staff March 20, 2015 16:55:09 IST
Last devdasi of Puri's Jagannath temple dies aged 92

The last living Mahari or Devdasi — human consort — of the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Sashimani Devi, passed away on Thursday bringing an end to the 800-year-old tradition.

According to reports, the 92-year-old woman had been ailing for the past few years because of her age.

According to The Times of India, "Sashimani, considered the 'human wife' of Lord Jagannath and the lone female servitor of the temple, had been unwell for the past few months. She died at the home of her adopted son Somanath Panda, a temple servitor, at Dolamandap Sahi near the temple. Sashimani was cremated at Swargadwar."

Last devdasi of Puris Jagannath temple dies aged 92

Representational image. AFP

Maharis are formally married to Lord Jagannath, and dedicate their lives to him. Reports say Sashimani Devi was only 12 when she was adopted into the temple as Jagannath's wife. The Indian Express reports, "Like a devoted wife, she regularly observed Savitri Brata for the Lord, like married Oriya women do for their husbands. Though the customary ‘devadasi nritya’ has been stopped in the Jagannath Temple a long time ago, Shashimani Devi danced during rituals like Nabakalebar, Nanda Utsav and Duar Paka during Bahuda Yatra."

However, she stopped dancing because of her deteriorating health more than a decade ago.

According to The Indian Express, "Sashimani’s foster daughter, Rupashri Mohapatra, said till she was fit Sashimani would dance in the morning and at night. She was a Bheetar-gani Mahari, one who would dance inside the sanctum sanctorum. Wearing silk sarees, gold jewellery and bangles the Maharis would dance and sing before Lord Jagannath."

Mohapatra was also quoted by The Times of India as saying, "With her death, the devadasi tradition has ended. What pained us the most is that she failed to survive till Nabakalebara. It was her last wish to watch the Lord's Nabakalebara festival."

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