800-year-old tradition of Jagannath temple ends before Rath Yatra, last Devadasi passes away
800-year-old tradition of Jagannath temple ends before Rath Yatra, last Devadasi passes away

Puri: With the death of Mahri Parasmani last Saturday in Odisha, the more than 800-year-old Devadasi tradition at Jagannath temple in Puri has come to an end. 92-year-old Devadasi was the last surviving servant of Lord Jagannath in Parasmani Puri. Parasmani had been serving the temple for more than eight decades. In 2010, after serving for 80 years, he was forced to stop reciting Gitagovind before Lord Jagannath due to old age.

He died on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was cremated at Swargdwar on Monday (July 12, 2021), a symbol of the much awaited Rath Yatra. Parasmani was residing in a rented house in Balisahi area of the city with the help of people. In fact, the end of this age-old tradition came to an end with the withdrawal of the monarchy. The Odisha government had taken over the administration of the temple from the royal family of Puri through an Act in 1955. At the same time, Parasmani was made the last living servant.

What is devadasi or mahri system?
According to the Devadasi system, in the 12th century Jagannath Puri temple, Mahri used to sing and dance for God. These Devadasis were married to Lord Jagannath, also known as Nilmadhav. These Devadasis accepted God as 'Divya Pati' and remained a virgin daughter. Therefore, in order to maintain the Mahri tradition, a mahari had to adopt a minor girl and teach her to dance, sing and play instruments before joining her in service. An article on the Devadasi system says, "Dance and singing were performed before God went to bed. It is a cultural symbol of faith in Lord Jagannath, which purifies the soul by pronouncing different forms of singing and art. It is a ritual that only women have to perform."

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