A portrait of God’s last wife
A documentary on the last living Devadasi (Temple dancer) ‘Viralimalai’ Muthukannammal, made by city-based history enthusiast and cinematographer, Jayakumaran
A documentary on the last living Devadasi (Temple dancer) ‘Viralimalai’ Muthukannammal, made by Coimbatore-based history enthusiast and cinematographer, Jayakumaran, has been chosen for screening at Panchajayam International Film Festival at Chittur near Palakkad in Kerala. The title of the documentary, God’s last wife, is appropriate given Devadasis are considered as wives of Gods and not permitted to marry.
The Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act, in 1947, provided Devadasis the legal right to marry and made illegal the dedication of girls to Hindu temples. Rationalist leader Periyar EV Ramasamy and eminent medical practitioner and social reformer, Dr Muthalakshmi Reddy, were instrumental in bringing about this ban on dedicating girls to Hindu temples in the name of Devadasis, as it paved the way for prostitution.
“However, being a history enthusiast, I wanted to document the life and divine service of Muthukannammal, the last living Devadasi of Tamil Nadu. She was in the city over a year ago to teach satir, the precursor of Bharatanatyam, to the dance aspirants of Coimbatore,” says Jayakumaran.
"Muthukannammal says that a Devadasi who is in love with a man, refers to her lover as ‘veettukarar’ (husband), though she has no right to marry. She adds that a Devadasi has the freedom to choose another man as her lover, and this act should not be questioned by her existing lover,” the filmmaker explains.
Jayakumaran, who worked as an assistant director on the 2014 Tamil feature film Snehavin Kadhalarkal, is an ardent lover of history, heritage and literature. He received his Diploma in Epigraphy from the Institution of Excellence at PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore.