The governments of many Indian princely states had regulated prostitution in India prior to the 1860s.British Raj enacted Cantonment Act of 1864 to regulate Prostitution in colonial India as a matter of accepting a necessary evil.Women competed to win the title of a Nagarvadhu, and it was not considered a taboo The first reference to dancing girls in temples is found in Kalidasa's "Meghadhoot", that the dancing girls were present at the time of worship in the Mahakal Temple of Ujjain.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.Thereafter the status of the temples fell very quickly in North India and slowly in South India.As the temples became poorer and lost their patron kings, and in some cases were destroyed, the devadasis were forced into a life of poverty, misery, and, in many cases, prostitution.
They occupied a rank next only to priests and their number often reached high proportions.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of women and girls from continental Europe and Japan were trafficked into British India, where they worked as prostitutes servicing British soldiers and local Indian men."From time immemorial Indian poets have sung praises of the 'public woman', the professional entertainer.
The epics give us a colourful description of her intimate connection with royal splendour.
For example, there were 400 devadasis attached 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, rajadasis, and modified the technique and themes of the recitals.