Published on 11 Apr 2014 | over 3 years ago
Mujra tradition is still going on at the most famous red-light area of the India's capital, which is also known for the business of prostitution internationally.
Mujra is a form of dance originated by tawaif (courtesans) during the Mughal era which incorporated elements of the native classical Kathak dance onto music such as thumris and ghazals or poems of those from other Mughal cultures such as Bahadur Shah Zafar. Mujra was traditionally performed at mehfils and in special houses called kothas. During Mughal rule in the subcontinent, in places such as Jaipur, the tradition of performing mujra was a family art and often passed down from mother to daughter amongst Muslim practitioners. The profession was a cross between art and exotic dance, with the performers often serving as courtesans amongst Mughal royalty or wealthy patrons.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Indian Mutiny), mujra performances provided an opportunity for mutineers to meet and many tawaif were also actively involved in the movement. As a result, many kothas were confiscated by the British after the mutiny, disrupting the traditional tawaif succession. By the early 1900s, many tawaif had moved into the prostitution industry as the traditional system had broken down. Some tawaif moved to the film and music industry.
Modern mujra dancers perform at events like weddings, birthday events and bachelor parties in countries where traditional Mughal culture is prevalent, such as Pakistan and India,( lesser extent in Bangladesh) often performing a modern form of mujra along with popular local music. Mujra has been depicted in Bollywood films like Umrao Jaan and Devdas or other films that show the past Mughal rule and its culture. The women trained in mujras often end up in prostitution.There is a famous location in India, in the city of Agra where it is a tradition for every man to learn mujra. In 2005, when dance bars were closed across Maharashtra state, many former bar girls moved to Congress House near Kennedy Bridge on Grant Road area in Mumbai, city oldest hub for mujra, and started performing mujra.