Nautch Girls of the Raj

Nautch Girls of the Raj

Product ID: 25657

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Author: Pran Nevile
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2009
Language: English
Pages: 136
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780143064787


The Nautch girl, extravagantly celebrated for her beauty as well as virtuosity, belonged to a unique class of courtesans who played a significant role in the social and cultural life of India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The nautch girl was no ordinary woman of pleasure—she had refined manners, a ready wit and poetry in her blood. She embodied a splendid synthesis of different cultures and dance forms—the classical and the popular—and catered to the sophisticated tastes of the elite who had the time, resources and inclination to enjoy her accomplishments.

Over the centuries female dancers have appeared in various incarnations, more often as temple dancers dedicated to the gods, for dance is believed to have divine approval. However, historians, sociologists, novelists and chroniclers have not always done justice to the Nautch girl, depicting her as either a vamp or as a showgirl bought by the wealthy for festive occasions. This book highlights the emergence of the quintessential Nautch girl from the Mughal era when she reached the zenith of her talent and charisma, to the British Raj when her mystique reigned supreme and her popularity and status among the English sahibs and the Indian aristocracy touched a new high.

Illustrated with reproductions and drawings from collections all over the world this book offers a vivid glimpse of the seductive allure and dazzling grace of Nautch in its days of glory.


The life and times of the Nautch girl evoked by Nevile are an eye-opener’
—The Times of India

‘To see her is to fall in love, and to drink a cup of wine from the flask of her lustrous eyes is to be transported to the coziest corner of Heaven. To be with her even for a moment is to taste immortality.’

’The Nautch girl may be no more…but she lives through the pages of Pran Nevile’s book…they bring to life vital periods of our recent history for which we have no record.’
—The Hindustan Times



1. The Glamour of the Nautch Girl
2. Sahibs and Nautch Entertainment
3. Nautch Parties by Rajahs and Nawabs
4. Music and Motion
5. Lifestyle, Customs and Rituals
6. Celebrated Nautch Girls
7. Patrons and Playmates
8. The Anti-Nautch Campaign

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