Dr Katherine Schofield, Senior Lecturer in South Asian Music and History in the Music department, has recorded a new podcast for The Great History Hack’s lockdown series of history podcasts.
Episode #189 History Hack: Indian Courtesans, in conversation with Alexandra Churchill and Alina Nowobilska, tells the 2000-year history of Indian courtesans and the important roles they have played in North and South Indian performing arts and political history.
Singing and dancing by women in India was the province of highly trained courtesans, from the time of the Kamasutra in the third century until the early twentieth century.
Katherine tells the stories of some particularly outstanding women—Begum Samru, Mahlaqa Bai Chanda, Khanum Jan, Gauhar Jan, M S Subbulakshmi—and weaves their lives as singers, poets, dancers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and lovers into the political history of India from the time of the East India Company.
The podcast ends with legendary twentieth-century singer Begum Akhtar—courtesan, stage and film actress, gramophone star, and queen of the Urdu ghazal—the real life model for the fictional courtesan Saeeda Bai, currently being played by great Indian actress Tabu in the acclaimed new Mira Nair/BBC adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.
You can find the podcast here.