BHUBANESWAR/PURI : The age-old Devadasi or Mahari parampara (tradition) of the 11th century Sri Jagannath temple at Puri has finally ended with the demise of the last surviving Devadasi Parasmani.
Fondly called Parsu Mahari, Parasmani was suffering from old age related ailments and breathed her last in sleep at her house in Gachhakali lane here on Friday night. She was 92.
Known for her melodious voice, she belonged to Gahani Samprada (singer group of Devadasis) and learnt Odissi music from eminent vocalist late Singhari Shyam Sundar Kar. Apart from rendering her temple services, she was also a radio artiste, known far and wide for her rendition of Odissi songs and bhajans related to Lord Jagannath.
While her initial training in harmonium and Odissi music was from her foster mother Devadasi Kundamani Devi, Parasmani served the Lord for over eight decades till 2010 when she was compelled to discontinue ‘seva’ because of her old age. In the last 10 years, Parasmani was reciting Geeta Govinda for the Lord every day.
She was the last surviving Devadasi of the Puri shrine after Sashimani Devi passed away in 2015. While Parasmani was 11 years younger to Sashimani, the two were ‘married’ (human consorts) to Lord Jagannath and considered ‘akhanda soubhagyabati’.
Srimandir’s last Devadasi Parasmani passes away
Since Devadasis were supposed to dedicate their entire lives to the service of the Lord, they were prohibited to marry. Besides the daily routine service at the temple, the Devadasis also served the Lord during special festive occasions like Chandan Jatra, Snan Jatra and Jhulan Jatra in the temple. Their presence in the temple was mandatory during festivals.
Historians said the Devadasi tradition in the temple was stopped after the death of Kokilaprabha Devadasi in 1993. Sashimani, prior to her death, used to participate only during Nanda Utsab on Bhadrab Krushna Nabami. Dr Surendra Mishra, a research scholar on Jagannath Culture, said the centuries-old Devadasi tradition deteriorated after abolition of kingship.
“Devadasis did not prefer to adopt girls and induct them into service as their successors in fear of losing their life-long savings and property. As per practice, a Devadasi has to adopt a minor girl, train her into singing, dancing and in various musical instruments before presenting her before the temple authority for inclusion in the service”, he said. Parasmani’s mortal remains were consigned to flames at Swargadwar on Saturday by her relative Prasanna Kumar Dash.