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SULE SANKAVVA (12TH CENTURY)


Sule Sankavva was a poet in Kannada, and only one of her poems has come down to us. This poem makes it clear that she was a Bhakti poet, besides also being a prostitute. She is the only instance of a practitioner of this profession (and she does not seem to have been a high-class courtesan) following the Bhakti path. Her poem is called ‘In my harlot’s trade’ and details how the god Shiva comes to her, but she refuses him as she has already taken another man’s money. Shiva wears the aspect of a ‘polluted’ wanderer, and if she cohabits with him she will be tortured and punished by society. The irony of the poem comes from the contrast between Shiva’s godhead and the conventional reaction of disgust and repudiation of his unconventional appearance and ritual impurity, a reaction that threatens her also, if she goes with him.
 
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