Event — Lecture

Towards Recovering Repressed Voices in India

* free entrance * 18 May 2005 * Leiden University * Building 1103 * Nonnensteeg 1-3 * room 329 * drinks afterwards *

15.00 - Dancer- Indologist Jolanda Boejharat will give a brief demonstration performing a ghazal and a mujara film dance, from the mujarewali tradition.

15.30 - Lecture by Dr Priyadarshini Vijaisri
Silences in History: The world of Outcaste sacred prostitutes

Sacred prostitution evokes exotic imagery of the Orient; dance, music, eroticism, temple and affluence. The post colonial context in which this custom has been investigated restrained the handling of sensitive issues as sex, caste and gender. This has led to disturbing and even embarrassing silences in any quest to understand the custom.

Drawing from the oral tradition and ethnographic and missionary sources, this lecture will focus on a specific category of sacred prostitutes known as jogatis/joginis, basavis in south India; their ritual identity and the sexual dynamics in a caste society. These women belong to untouchable communities across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The custom existed till the 1980’s when attempts were made by the state to make it illegal. The state introduced reform and rehabilitation and recently the women showed great enthusiasm in representing their interests. The manner in which the state handles cultural issues, however, raises serious concerns about outcaste identity and sexuality.

16.00 - Lecture by Jolanda Boejharat
Mujarewali: from courtesan to prostitute

Mujara is a North-Indian entertainment genre performed by courtesans (the mujarewali) that combines singing and dancing. It has developed over the last 250 years and was originally based on the classical Hindustani music tradition. At present Mujara is severely tabooed.

Courtesan arts flourished under royal patronage. This ended with the arrival of the British: those less talented had to provide ‘additional services’ to assure their income. In the post-colonial era India was to write its own history, and cinema was prominent in this. From the 1950s onward a courtesan movie genre advances. Today mujara-filmsongs are still being enjoyed, but they have also been re-fashioned as disco-mujara. Trendy evenings are organized for the upper-class whereas mujara striptease-shows are fashionable at bachelor-parties. These manifestations are innocent compared to the harsh reality of singing and dancing prostitutes living in India’s red-light districts. Still some of these women consider themselves mujarewali’s.

For more information, please contact IIAS:
Ms. Lena Scheen
071-527 4159