Mujra

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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.[1] 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.

'Mujra' is also the traditional way of greeting among Marathas. [2] A slight bow, then flapping the right hand in front of the chest 3 times is the traditional mode of greeting/salutation with which the courtiers in the Maratha princely states greeted their Maharaja, Maharani, their children, and other members of the royal family. It is performed with a good deal of flourish and style, and does not come easily to outsiders. It is still the proper way of salutation among the Maratha royal families, across India. [3]

Decline[edit]

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.[4] 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.

Present day (since 1970)[edit]

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. [5] 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.[6]

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