Temple architecture

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

The educated Brahmin community of Goa expelled the most talented community of temple dancers – a Devdasi community – in order to establish ownership, under Portuguese rule, and began to run the temples as Mahajans.

This startling statement was made by prominent Indian mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik during an Instagram live lecture held tonight. He delivered a 45-minute lecture, which was to be delivered at the 14th DD Kosambi Ideas Festival, but was canceled at the last minute.

Click here to download Instagram and watch the conference

The entire five-day festival was canceled three days prior, where eminent Goan writer and award winner Jnanpith Damodar Mauzo was due to open the festival on November 10 with a lecture on “Multilingual Goan History”, followed by lectures by Professor Madhavi Menon of Ashoka University, Dr Suraj Yengde of Harvard University in Cambridge and biochemist Prof Pranay Lal.

Invitations for the 14th Festival of Ideas have been sent

Calling them “liberal and left-wing,” the central BJP leadership reportedly ordered the local BJP government to cancel the festival. After declaring that the Festival had to be canceled due to “unavoidable circumstances”, the government has still not explained what unavoidable reasons led it to take this sudden decision.

Pattanaik, however, according to the program, delivered his lecture on his Instagram handle instead, on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at 5 p.m. sharp.


While telling the whole story 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:

“The gods of Goa help you understand history, geography, politics and economics without judgment.”

According to Pattanaik, the community of women dancers and singers, who were extremely talented and had access to wealth and were the true independent liberated women, were suddenly thrown out of their control over the temples.

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

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

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

According to the mythologist, the powerful and independent dancers and singers (he refused to call them with the humiliating term like Devdasis) did not marry and therefore had no legitimate sons.

This, he believed, also coincided with the concept of purity introduced by Brahmin men across India and eliminated the power of women over temples. It happened in Jagannath temple, in Thanjavur and even in Kerala. It was a shrewd strategy of the European imperialists, British or Portuguese, who laid the foundations of discrimination between men and women, in addition to the caste system on “pure” and “impure” people.

Second, with the help of the second Portuguese legislation of clear ownership of temples, educated Brahmins signed the documents and became Mahajans of temples, completely ostracizing other uneducated communities. The same strategy was also used to hold their ownership over landed property.

“In short, they abused Goddess Saraswati for their ulterior motives,” Pattanaik joked.

At this point, he also reminded the audience of the emergence of a myth called Lord Parashurama, a Brahmin warlord, who is said to have created the coastal land of Goa and the entire Konkan coast by receding the Arabian Sea with five arrows, which enabled the Brahmins to own this land.

Incidentally, the towering personalities of India belonging to this community of “extremely talented female dancers and singers”, include music maestro Dinanath Mangeshkar and his family headed by “Bharat Ratna” Lata Mangeshkar, Indian classical singers like Mogubai Kurdikar , Kishori Amonkar and many more from Padma award winning artists, leading Indian scientist like Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, legal luminary like Adv Adhik Shirodkar and even Goa’s two Prime Ministers Bhausaheb Bandodkar and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar. The list continues…


Pattanaik also explained how the concept of gods and temples was introduced to Goa with people from different parts of the world migrating to this coastal land. It all started with fertility gods like Santer (anthill), guardian gods like Betallthe GramdevName of the whole village and Kulldev of certain communities, then the Gods belonging to the Vaishnava and Shaiva beliefs.

People including traders and especially Brahmins migrated to this beautiful green coastal land for thousands of years and brought 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 antiquity until recently, communities have never been divided in the name of the gods. People gathered together, shared responsibilities, worshiped the gods, celebrated festivals, cooked and ate together without any discrimination.

See also

There was also no discrimination based on gender and men and women were treated equally in ancient India.


Unlike the rest of India, Pattanaik said Islamic rule in Goa never interfered with people’s communal life or their religious rituals. But after the Portuguese domination, this changed drastically, even if the people did not totally abandon their customs.

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

According to Pattanaik, who is also an artist and illustrator, the deepstambh in front of the temples of Goa and its mahadwar emerged through Bahamian influence and Arabic architectural style.

Moreover, he says, the domed structure of Ghoumat (घुमट) on the sanctuary is the influence of Portuguese architecture.


Pattanaik also did not take the opportunity to comment on the shameful act of canceling the most enlightening festival, the Festival of Ideas, which was resuming after a hiatus of a few years due to the Covid19 pandemic.

“The gods of Goa also help you understand how people became insecure and power hungry. It still happens today and they do stupid things like cancel such events. They would definitely be punished by the almighty gods .

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

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 Sarasvati sinks in Goa!