Rare book on 30 Devadasis of Tamil Nadu (Post No.2614)


Research Article written by london swaminathan

Date:  9 March, 2016


Post No. 2614


Time uploaded in London :–  19-21


( Thanks for the Pictures  ) 




(for old articles go to tamilandvedas.com OR swamiindology.blogspot.com)





I came across a very rare TAMIL book on Rudrakanikas or Devadasis of the Tamil Speaking World. It was written by Anjukam of Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka in 1911. I consider this book not only rare but also valuable for future researchers. Devadasis were women dedicated to temples and they devoted their full time to dance and sing at the temple. It is part of daily worship. Dance and music are part of honours offered to God every day. Nowadays devotees do this.


There are no books written by Devadasis available now. Miss Anjukam also belongs to the community of Rudrakanikas alias Devadasis. She collected details from Tamil literature starting from Tamil Epics Silappadikaram and Manimegalai to the modern day. Her mother Kamalambikai was also a Rudrakanika serving a Siva temple in Colombo.


Old women writers are not recognised. They are completely ignored by the male dominated literary world. I come across a new woman writer every week at the British Library who found no place in the later Tamil writings. Tamils knew only KarIkal Ammaiyar, Andal and Avvaiyar and the later writers were not listed.


Rig Veda, the oldest religious book in the world mentioned at least 20 poetesses. Sangam Tamil literature which came 1500 years after the Vedas also had the poems of over 20 poetesses. Several souvenirs released by the popular Tamil magazines and World Tamil Conferences forgot to mention the contribution of 19th and 20th century women writers. Lot of novels and poems were written by them.


Anjukam is one of those forgotten writers. She was bold enough to write about a subject which no one else would dare to touch. She was well versed in Saivite literature and knew very well about the Devadasi system that existed in Shiva temples of ancient Tamil Nadu. Anjukam has consulted Saivite scholars and took references from 45 Tamil works. RAJARAJAN, one of the greatest Choza Kings, inscribed the beautiful names of all the 400 Devadasis employed by him n the Big Temple in Thanjavur.


Anjukam had collected the profile of 30 temple or Royal dancers and had written in a high style. Stories of Madhavi and Manimegalai are known to many Tamils . She had collected more names who were famous in the regions where they lived. She divided them into two groups of good and bad women. Epic woman Madhavi earned a bad name because she lived with a married man Kovalan. Paravai, wife of the Saivite Saint Sundaramurthy Nayanar and others lead a decent life.



Several Unknown stories or locally known stories in the book are very interesting to read. One of them is the story of Kondiammal of Tiruvarur. She was a devoted dancing girl attached to the famous Shiva temple there. Tiruvarur chariot (Ther) is one of the biggest chariots in Tamil Nadu. During the Panguni Uttaram festival it will be pulled like the chariots of Puri Jagannath. During Chola period the chariot festival day was celebrated on a grand scale. During one year they met with a problem. In spite of the efforts of thousands of devotees assembled there the chariot did not budge even an inch. The king tried all the tricks but it did not work. He went to bed with the worries and he had a strange dream. God told him that If he called the dancer Kondiammal to honour the god with chowries (Whisk, bushy tail of a Yak) then the chariot would move. As soon as he woke up in the morning, he sent for Kondiammal and she was brought to the chariot with all the Royal honours. She willingly came forward to do the job ordered by the king,  but put a few conditions to the King. The conditions were that she should be cremated on the banks of River Kaveri after her death. She also asked the king to erect one Ganesh temple at every mile from her house to the river banks. Choza king not only accepted her conditions, but also executed them faithfully after her death. Thus Devadasi Kondiammal left her memories for posterity.


Short life story the following Devadasis are found in Anjukam’s book:-


Anajanakshi, Abirami, Abishekavalli, Amporsilambi, Arunagirinathar’s mother, Kuththaal, Kondiammal, Shanmukavadivu, Chintamaniratnam, Silambi, Sirkazik Kanikai, Somi, Njanavalli, Tiruvaranai Panneerayiravar, Tiruvarunaik kanikai,Paravaiyar, Punkotai, Ponnanaiyar,Manimegalai,Madanasundari, Madanabishekam,Manonmani, Manikkavalli, Her daughter, Manikka Nachiyar, Madhavi, Mananthai, Mohanangi, Vilasavathy, Vellaiyammal, Kamatchi, Kamalambikai, Santhanavalli and Anjukam.