Indian gods' "sex slaves" inspire new Bollywood film

MUMBAI Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:24am EDT

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A centuries-old custom that saw girls led into a life of prostitution and slavery in the name of serving Hindu gods is the focus of a new Bollywood film.

The practice of dedicating young girls to the service of a deity began in ancient India, but over time the custom degenerated into an excuse for their sexual exploitation by powerful men.

A "devadasi" or servant of god dedicated her puberty to a deity, lived in the temple and even learnt classical Indian dances to perform for the gods.

The makers of "Pranali" (The System) say they want to throw light on the sexual exploitation of these women who enjoyed a high social standing but were actually sex slaves of priests and powerful men who claimed themselves to be gods' representatives.

"Our film aims at only creating awareness that despite the practice of devadasis being illegal, it is still being followed in some parts of India," producer Nikhil Mathur told Reuters.

Mathur said his film will underline the plight of these "gods' wives" through the eyes of one devadasi.

Despite an official ban, the "devadasi" system is said to exist in secrecy and thousands of "devadasis" remain dedicated to various deities in modern India.

"We know this is a sensitive subject to touch and we do not want to criticize the custom or point fingers at anyone," Mathur said. "We just want people to know what devadasis go through."

"Pranali" is expected to open in February.

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