Acclaimed writer, William Dalrymple wrote ‘Nine Lives: in Search of the Sacred in Modern India‘, in 2009. The book explores the recounds the lives and experiences of nine Indians, following nine difficernt religious paths. The people he has chosen to feature reflect the vast and varies, religious kaleidoscope of India, although the stories could certainly be said to focus on more ‘extreme’ cases of religious observance.
One of the nine lives, is that of Rani Bai, a thirty-something lady and Devdasi. William Dalrymple’s account explains the story surrounding the Goddess Yellama, to whom as a Devadasi, Rani was dedicated at the age of six.
However, it is his portrait of Rani which is rich and real – as are the other eight in the book - that makes his writing so compelling. Here, there is no judgement passed, and he recounts the positive things that Rani has to say about her life and her goddess, as much as the poverty, abuse and disease to which she is subjected.
William Dalrymple’s story of Rani has recently been published as an article in the New Yorker online, and it is surely worth reading for a visceral and beautifully written insight into the life of a Devadasi.