Seven girls decked up like goddesses, with only jewellery to cover their chest, spend 15 days in the care of a male priest as part of the ritual. Only girls who haven’t reached puberty are sent to the temple.
“It is an ancient custom…Parents send their girls voluntarily,” said Madurai collector K Veera Raghava Rao, who ordered clothes for the girls to ensure they were not harassed or abused.
He asserted, however, that a team of officials investigated and found no abuse of children at the temple.
More than 60 villages that participate in the ritual worship the girls like goddesses. The Collector has instructed these communities to ensure that the girls are fully covered.