Parasmani Devi, the last surviving 'devadasi' of the Shri Jagannath Temple in Odisha's Puri, died due to old-age related ailments on Saturday, temple sources said. She was 90.
Parasmani lived in a rented house in Balisahi area of the temple town with people's support as the Devadasi system had ended at the 12th-century shrine decades ago.
Devadasis were married to Lord Jagannath and accepted him as the "divine husband", and they remained spinsters throughout their lives.
The Devadasi system at the temple gradually ended after the Odisha government took over the administration of the shrine from the Puri royal family in 1955 through an Act.
There were two types of devadasis in the temple - dancers and singers.
Parasmani was a singer who sang devotional songs like Geeta Govinda during the bed-time of the presiding deities.
Parasmani was adopted by Kundamani Devadasi and she began her training as a devadasi at the age of seven.
According to the temple's Record of Rights (RoR), there were about 25 devadasis in Puri about 100 years ago, while the Orissa Gazette of 1956 lists nine devadasis and 11 musicians at the temple.
Till 1980, only four devadasis remained at the temple -- Harapriya, Kokilaprava, Parasmani and Sashimani. While the others had died, Parasmani, who had worked for around eight decades, continued to sing devotional songs at the temple despite the derecognition of the devadasis.
Earlier, devadasis had specific roles during the Nabakalebara festival (rituals associated with the change of wooden bodies of deities). They became widows as per tradition and again wore vermilion after the new idols were worshipped.
Ahead of Lord Jagannath's Nabakalebara in 2015, Sashimani died at 92. She had served as a devadasi since the age of seven and performed her role during the Nabakalebara festivals held in 1977 and 1996.
Parasmani's adopted son Prasanna Kumar Das lit her funeral pyre at Swargadawar crematorium here.