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Prostitution is legal in India. In some parts of ancient India, rich lords and princes would ask Nagarvadhu courtesans to sing and dance for them in their role as "brides of the town". Women competed to win the title of a Nagarvadhu, and it was not considered a taboo.

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A Nagarvadhu was respected like a queen or Goddess, but she was a courtesan or prostitute ; people could watch her dance and sing. Regarding the Devadasi concept, some scholars are of the opinion that the custom of dedicating girls to temples probably became quite common in the 6th century CE, as most of the Puranas containing reference to it were written during this period.

By the end of the 10th century, the total number of devadasis in many temples was in direct proportion to the wealth and prestige of the temple. They occupied a rank next only to priests and their number often reached high proportions. For example, there were devadasis "Government housing schemes in bangalore dating" to the temples at Tanjore and Travancore.

Local kings often invited temple dancers to dance in their courts, the occurrence of which created a new category of dancers, rajadasisand modified the technique and themes of the recitals. A devadasi had to satisfy her own soul while she danced unwatched and offered herself to the god, but the rajadasi's dance was meant to be an entertainment.

The popularity of devadasis seems to have reached its pinnacle around 10th and 11th century CE. The rise and fall in the status of devadasis can be seen to be running parallel to the rise and fall of Hindu temples.

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