Mythically, the devadasis are the incarnation of Urvashi, the celestial nymph. Legend has it that Urvashi was dancing at Indra’s court and saw Jayanta, Indra’s son. For a brief moment, her eyes lingered on Jayanta, and momentarily distracted, she missed a step. This enraged Agastya, the sage, who had observed their infatuated exchange of glances. Agastya cursed the pair and Indra and Jayanta had to atone, banished to Earth to perform their art there. From an Urvashi in love, a thousand devadasi-s were born.
E.Thurston in his Castes and Tribes of Southern India identifies seven types of devadasis : datta (who gives herself to the temple) ; vikrita (who sells herself to the temple) ; bhritya (who offers herself for the sake of the prosperity of her family) ; brita (who is enticed away and presented to the temple) ; bhakta (who joins the temple out of devotion) ; alankara (who is well trained in her profession, decked up and presented to the temple by noblemen and kings) and the rudraganika or gopikas (who are employed to sing and dance).