Introduction. Gods, Gifts, Trouble
1 The English word is often used among speakers of the Dravadian language Kan-
nada for this ankle- length cotton undergarment. Kannada is the official language
of the state of Karnataka.
2 I use this term—generally used in the region of my fieldwork to refer to women
married in the conventional sense—throughout the book. This usage allows me
to avoid calling such women married women, a term that fails to distinguish be-
tween them and devadasis, who are also married but who are not gandullavalu.
I did encounter a few ex- devadasis (maji devadasis) who had registered conven-
tional marriages, a fact I specify when I discuss these women.
3 Jogappas are pujaris (priests, caretakers) performers and mendicants who wrap
themselves in saris, adopt the habitus of women, and perform all the same rites
as devadasis. In this book, I focus on devadasis, by far the largest number of these
wandering mendicants, who as illicit female women are the focus of social re-
form in a way that the male women are not.
4 There is some eﬀort in the ethnographic literature (see, for instance, Assayag
1992; Tarachand 1992) to distinguish devadasis (meaning prostitutes) from joga-
tis (meaning religious mendicants and ritual specialists). This split between ritual
performance and sexual economy was not borne out in my research. Throughout
the book I use both jogati and devadasi to refer to dedicated women whose sexu-
ality and religiosity are bound up in their relationship with the devi.
5 Dalit (meaning crushed or broken, in Sanskrit) is the self- designation of politi-
cized members of communities formerly labeled untouchable. In the context of
contemporary party politics, the term “Dalit” is often used to refer to all non-
Brahmans. My usage here and throughout the book is specific to members of
those communities formerly designated as untouchable. According to Vedic
reckoning, these communities are outside the caste system that is comprised of
the four varnas (classes or types)—Brahman (priests), Ksatriya (warriors), Vaisya
(merchants), and Sudra (agriculturalists, laborers)—thus the designation “out-
caste,” a term I also use. For a brief history of the term “Dalit,” see Guru 2001. For
a compelling history of Dalit identity and political formation, see A. Rao 2009.