Literally Devadasi means, a Servant of God! Women who belonged to the Devadasi tradition were given high respect and social status during the time of Kings but as the days passed by and the society evolved these ladies were made to be prostitutes and sex slaves. During those days, these ladies were trained on the 64 arts and were equivalent to a royal lady.
The Devadasis of those times danced in front of the Gods and Kings to keep them entertained and along with that they also had the liberty of choosing their own partners. But, the tables turned against them and in the name of Devadasi system, illegal activities started to spin and this included young women and also children who were used as sex slaves. The high-class of Devadasis slowly declined towards being Child prostitutes and sex workers.
Saundatti, in North Karnataka also called as Savadavarti or Savadatti is a place located 37 km away from Dharwad. Popularly known as Yellammana Gudda, this is a place dedicated to Goddess Renuka Devi. A lot of devotees flock to this temple on Banada Hunnime a specific full-moon-day and the number of devotees can at times cross over 10 lakh. This is one such place where a lot of Devadasis can be found even to this day. The temple is located amidst the lovely Ramalinga hills. This temple one belonged to the Ratta dynasty.
The temple architecture is a blend of Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas and also it had features of Jainism style of construct too. It was constructed by Bommappa Naik during the 16th century and there are inscriptions found on ceramics and pottery pieces. The temple is now under Mujrai system of Karnataka Government. Taking a holy dip in the ponds found behind the temple is an age old tradition followed here.
The temple is almost a century old and has been revered to be one of the most powerful places for getting rid of black magic spells. You can get to see ladies carrying the idols of Goddess Renuka Devi on their heads and seeking alms throughout the way. The temple premises is filled with shop-keepers selling Puja items and also one can witness people carrying the local food like Jowar-Roti and curd in a huge basket which can be quite tempting.
The temple queue can be unexpectedly long especially during Tuesdays and Fridays hence, expecting to get the blessings from the Goddess can be quite a challenging task. There are several other temples here which can be visited during your visit to Saundatti and they are Puradeshwara temple, Ankeshwara temple and also the Saundatti Fort. Well, this is one such place which is dedicated to one of the most powerful Goddess but also a place where the plague of following the Devadasi system still exist!