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The Bookmark

Book Recommendations from NeoNarthaki

Courting Hindustan written by Bharatnatyam dancer, Madhur Gupta is a deeply researched, elegantly crafted portrait of some of the most intriguing women figures practising traditional Indian entertainment art forms such as, music, dance and poetry. It relives 2,500 golden years of women being elite traditional performers and how, over the centuries, they have captured the imagination of the country and the world at large, their art and lives being a complex response to social forces and cultural conditions.

In ancient India, women competed to win the title of Nagarvadhu, quite literally the town’s consort. For certain temple worship (Agamas), dance and music were necessary ingredients. The women artists dedicated to the worship—Devadasis and Maharis—had a high rank and dignity in society. Tawaifs were central to Mughal court culture from the sixteenth century. It is also believed that young heirs were sent to courtesans to learn ‘tameez’ and ‘tehzeeb’, including the appreciation of good music and literature.

Madhur Gupta

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