Servants of the Goddess

Servants of the Goddess

Over the past hundred and fifty years, devadasis have gradually been pushed out of temples across south India; however, economic pressures and ancient traditions conspire to perpetuate the system. Thousands of girls are dedicated to the goddess every year and end up leading a life of sexual slavery.

An estimated quarter million devadasis are currently living in south India’s poverty belt.

Servants of the Goddess weaves together the heartbreaking, yet paradoxically life-affirming stories of five devadasis—women, in the clutches of an ancient fertility cult, forced to serve the gods.

Catherine Rubin Kermorgant sets out attempting to make a documentary film about the lives of present-day devadasis. Through her, we meet and get to know the devadasi women of Kalyana, a remote village in Karnataka. As they grow to trust Kermorgant and welcome her as an honorary sister, we hear their stories in their own words: stories of oppression and violence, but more importantly, of resistance and resilience. Kermorgant becomes a part of these stories and finds herself unwittingly enmeshed in a world of gender and caste bias which extends far beyond Kalyana—all the way to Paris, where the documentary is to be edited and produced.

Servants of the Goddess is a testament to women's strength and spirit, and a remarkably astute analysis of gender and caste relations in today's rural India.

All photos and site © Catherine Rubin Kermorgant