“We all have the right to be children“ says Prema Kundarghi, as she opens the gate to the orphanage “Ingrid Paradise“. Prema Kundarghi was raised as an orphan herself and knows what she is fighting for: Yellamma’s daughters – girls, who out of Hindu tradition have been promised to the Goddess Yellamma and forced to prostitution. Between the ages of 5 and 12, the girls get initiated in the temple through a ceremony and have to serve men. This is a tradition in India that was officially banned in the 1980s, but nonetheless persists in secret under the guise of religion. Today, there are around 25,000 girls and women that face this life. Annually, hundreds of mothers sacrifice their daughters behind closed doors to the Goddess Yellamma, passing over their hereditary role of a sacred prostitute.
Before founding the orphanage in 2008, Prema took care of Devadasis, the so-called sacred prostitutes, and tried to unchain them from the vicious cycle. Witnessing the countless women dying from AIDS and the daughters they left behind, Prema decided to shelter the orphans and wanted to offer them a better life. As an orphan, Prema herself was in the same situation when a German woman Ingrid Müller entered her life. “My adoptive mother saved me“, she says with a warm smile. She named her house in Siruguppa, Karnataka after her, where she provides 26 girls shelter in safety and comfort.