Women courtesans were not looked down upon by religious leaders or kings. Some of them were highly accomplished and in the point of culture standing resembled the Hetairai of Athens. The famous courtesan Amrapali who lived during the reign of Bimbisara (300 to 273 BC) was a beauty whom Buddha visited at her Ambapali vana and ate food served by her. She later became his disciple.

Maharis were Oriya devadasis or temple girls, mainly those at the temple of Jagannath at Puri. Early Maharis performed mainly nritta (pure dance) and abhinaya (interpretation of poetry) based on mantras and slokas. Later, Maharis especially performed dance sequences based on the lyrics of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda. Bhitari Gauni Maharis were allowed in the inner temple while Bahari Gauni Maharis , though allowed inside the temple, were excluded from the sanctum sanctorum.

Famous dancers like Unniyacci, Unniyati, Unniccirutevi and others are described as expert exponents of the devadasi art, attached to Siva temples and residing in their precincts. Most of the stone inscriptions containing references to devadasis in Kerala have been discovered from Siva temples.

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