"At this time when so many of us are really concerned about wars and travel bans, literature is more indispensable than ever, precisely because the imagination is no respecter of boundaries or fences," he says.The annual literary festival, that takes place at Diggi Palace, Jaipur, had started with a handful of 18 writers, and over the years, the event has witnessed the presence of some of the most celebrated writers.It soon was not favoured by the British, and the women were branded as prostitutes to defame them. They used to be the only source of popular music and dance and were often invited to perform on weddings and other occasions.Some of them became concubines of maharajas and wealthy individuals.Like the geisha tradition in Japan, their main purpose was to professionally entertain their guests, and while sex was often incidental, it was not assured contractually.High-class or the most popular tawaifs could often pick and choose among the best of their suitors.Some of the popular tawaifs were Begum Samru (who rose to rule the principality of Sardhana in western UP), Moran Sarkar (who became the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh), Wazeeran (patronised by Lucknow’s last nawab Wajid Ali Shah), Begum Hazrat Mahal (Wajid Ali's first wife who played an important role in the First War of Independence), Umrao Jaan (a fictional character), Gauhar Jaan (a notable classical singer who sang for India's first-ever record), and Zohrabai Agrewali.The annexation of Oudh by the British in 1856 sounded the first death-knell for this medieval institution.
Over the years, Sri Lankan artist Senaka Senanayake's works have travelled the world over — if a 1965 work hangs at The White House, another is at the UN conference hall.
“It is a preliminary attempt to possess breathing earth and turn soil into a living object," says Bangladeshi artist Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisty.
In her latest book, Dancing with the Nation: Courtesans in Bombay Cinema, author Ruth Vanita examines the role of real-life courtesans in shaping early Hindi cinema, their changing on-screen portrayal and unique status as independent women.
Many girls were taken at a young age and trained in both performing arts (such as Kathak and Hindustani classical music) as well as literature (ghazal, thumri) to high standards.
It is also believed that young nawabs-to-be were sent to these "tawaifs" to learn "tameez" and "tehzeeb" which included the ability to differentiate and appreciate good music and literature, perhaps even practice it, especially the art of ghazal writing.