Brahmin ‘Mahajans’ eliminated ‘Devdasis’ from temple ownership: Devdutt Pattanaik

The educated Brahmin community of Goa threw out the most talented community of temple dancers – a Devdasi community – in order to establish their ownership over it, during the Portuguese regime, and started running  the temples as Mahajans.

This startling statement was made by Devdutt Pattanaik, India’s eminent mythologist and author, at a Live Instagram lecture held this evening. He delivered a 45-minute lecture, which was scheduled to be delivered at the 14th D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas, but was cancelled at the last minute. 

Click here to download Instagram and Watch the lecture

The whole five-day festival was cancelled three days prior, where Goa’s eminent writer and Jnanpith Awardee Damodar Mauzo was to open the Festival on 10 November with a lecture on ‘The Story of Multilingual Goa’, followed by lectures by Prof Madhavi Menon of Ashoka University, Dr Suraj Yengde of Harvard University in Cambridge and biochemist Prof Pranay Lal. 

Invites for 14th Festival of Ideas were dispatched

Terming them ‘liberal and leftist’, the central BJP leadership reportedly directed the local BJP government to cancel the Festival. After stating that the Festival had to be cancelled duee to the ‘unavioidable circumstances’, the government has still not explained what unavoidable reasons prompted them to take this sudden decision. 

Pattanaik, however as per the schedule, delivered his lecture on his Instagram handle instead, on Saturday, the 12th November 2022,  at 5 pm sharp.  


While narrating the whole history of how different Gods emerged in Goa with people from all walks of life migrating to this coastal land from the ancient period, Pattanaik said: 

“Gods of Goa help you understand the history, geography, politics and economics without being judgemental.”

According to Pattanaik, the community of dancing and singing women, who were extremely talented and had access to wealth and were the real liberated independent women, were suddenly thrown out from their control over temples. 

“There was no concept of widow since they were never getting married. They were called Nityasumangali (नित्यसुमंगली)”, he said. 

He also lauded this community for holding the Hindu deities in their hands and crossing rivers to save them from the religious conversions and temple demolitions carried out by the Portuguese regime. So much they were devoted to the Gods, he added.

He claimed that two legislations of the Portuguese prompted the action of eliminating the power of dancing and singing liberated independent women. One of the laws where only a legitimate son could own the property and the second one was regarding the clear ownership of temples. 

According to the mythologist, the powerful and independent dancing and singing women (he refused to call them with the humiliating term like Devdasis) were not getting married and thus did not have legitimate sons. 

This, according to him, also coincided with the concept of purity brought in by Men Brahmins across India and eliminated the power of women over the temples. It happened in Jagannath temple, in Thanjavur and even in Kerala. It was a cunning strategy of the European imperialists, the British or the Portuguese, who laid down the grounds for discrimination between men and women, besides the caste system over ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ people.

Secondly, with the help of the second Portuguese legislation of clear ownership of the temples, the educated Brahmins signed the documents and became Mahajans of the temples, by completely sidelining the other uneducated communities. The similar strategy was also used to hold their ownership over property of land. 

“In short, they misused Goddess Saraswati for their ulterior motives”, quipped Pattanaik. 

At this point, he also reminded the audience of the emergence of a myth called Lord Parashurama, a Brahmin warlord, who supposedly created the coastal land of Goa and the whole Konkan coast by receding the Arabian sea with five arrows, resulting in Brahmins owning this land. 

Incidentally, the towering personalities of India belonging to this community of ‘extremely talented dancing and singing women’, include music maestro Dinanath Mangeshkar and his family led by ‘Bharat Ratna’ Lata Mangeshkar, Indian classical singers like Mogubai Kurdikar, Kishori Amonkar and many other artists bestowed with Padma Awards, India’s leading scientist like Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, a legal luminary like Adv Adhik Shirodkar and even Goa’s first two chief ministers Bhausaheb Bandodkar and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar. The list goes on…


Pattanaik also explained how the concept of Gods and temples were introduced in Goa with people from different parts of the world migrating to this coastal land. It began with fertility Gods like Santer (anthill), Guardian Gods like Betall, the Gramdev of the whole village and Kulldev of certain communities and then the Gods belonging to the Vaishnava and Shaiva faiths.  

People including traders and especially the Brahmins migrated to this beautiful green coastal land over thousands of years and brought along with them different concepts of Gods and temples.

He also said that the festival of burning the effigy of Narakasura where Lord Krishna kills him on the eve of Diwali is a unique festival found only in Goa.

According to him, from the ancient time till recently, the communities were never divided in the name of Gods. People came together, divided the responsibilities, worshipped the Gods, celebrated festivals, cooked and ate togther without any discrimination.

There was also no discrimination on the grounds of gender and male-female were treated equally in the ancient India. 


Unlike the rest of India, Pattanaik said the Islamic rule in Goa never hampered the community living of the people or their religious rituals. But after the Portuguese rule, it changed drastically, though people did not leave their customs totally. 

“For example, the first harvest was always offered to the village Goddess by the farming community of the village. Even today, the Christians farmers offer it to Mother Mary. The religion changed, but the customs continued”, he said.

According to Pattanaik, who is also an artist and an illustrator, the Deepstambh in front of Goan temples and its Mahadwar have emerged through Bahamani influence and the Arabic style of architecture. 

Also, he said, the dome structure of Ghumat (घुमट) over the sanctum is the influence of Portuguese architecture. 


Pattanaik also did not leave this opportunity to comment on the shameful act of cancelling the most illuminating festival, the Festival of Ideas, which was beginning once again after a gap of a few years due to Covid19 pandemic. 

“The Gods of Goa also help you understand how people became insecure and hungry for power. It happens even today and they do foolish things like cancelling such events. They would certainly be punished by the almighty Gods.” 

“आज नहीं तो कल, करम का फल भुगतना ही पडता है”, he quipped. 

In his typical sarcastic style, Pattanaik concluded his lecture with a prayer:“Let us hope that the powerful Betall of Goa will protect us from those who try to stop Devi Saraswati flowing in Goa!”

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