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EDUCATION OF COURTESANS
“Gauhar Jān did her duty by the child according to her lights. She engaged the best ‘Gawayyas' to teach her music, the best 'Kathaks' to teach her dancing, the best Ustāds' to teach her elocution and deportment, and the best of Munshis to ground her in Urdu and Persian belles lettres ; so that when Imtiazān reached her fifteenth year her accomplishments were noised abroad in the bazār." is still said to be the custom for the Hindus in large towns, as among the Greeks of the time of Pericles, to frequent the society of courtesans for the charm of their witty and pointed conversation. Betel-nut is provided at such receptions, and at the time of departure each person is expected to deposit a rupee in the tray. Of course it is in no way. meant to assert that the custom is at all generally prevalent among educated men, as this would be quite untrue.
The association of all feminine charms and intellectual attainments with public women led to the belief that they were incompatible with feminine modesty; and this was even extended to certain ornamental articles of clothing such as shoes. The Abbé Dubois remarks: “ The courtesans are the only women in India who enjoy the privilege of learning to read, to dance and to sing. A well-bred respectable woman would for this reason blush to acquire any one of these accomplishments.” Buchanan says:
Buchanan says : 2 “ The higher classes of Hindu women consider every approach to wearing shoes as quite indecent; so that their use is confined to Muhammadans, camp trulls and Europeans, and most of the Muhammadans have adopted the Hindu notion on this subject; women of low rank wear sandals.” And again : 3 "A woman who appears clean in public on ordinary occasions may pretty confidently be taken for a prostitute ; such care of her person would indeed be considered by her husband as totally incompatible with modesty." And as regards accomplishments : 4 " It is considered very disgraceful for a modest woman to sing or play on any musical instrument; the only time when such a practice is permitted is among the Muhammadans at the Muharram, when women
3 Ibidem, iii. p. 107.
1 Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, p. 93.
2 Eastern India, i. p. 119.
4 Ibidem, ii. p. 930.
allowed to join in the praises of Fātima and her son.” And a current saying is : “A woman who sings in the house as she goes about her work and one who is fond of music can never be a Sati”; a term which is here used as an equivalent for a virtuous woman. Buchanan wrote a hundred years ago, and things have no doubt improved since his time, but this feeling appears to be principally responsible for much of the prejudice against female education, which has hitherto been so strong even among the literate classes of Hindus; and is only now beginning to break down as the highly cultivated young men of the present day have learned to appreciate and demand a greater measure of intelligence from their wives.
Among the better class of Kasbis a certain caste feeling and organisation exists. When a girl attains adolescence her mother makes a bargain with some rich man to be her first consort. Oil and turmeric are rubbed on her body for five days as in the case of a bride. A feast is given to the caste and the girl is married to a dagger, walking seven times round the sacred post with it. Her human consort then marks her forehead with vermilion and covers her head with her head-cloth seven times. In the evening she goes to live with him for as long as he likes to maintain her, and afterwards takes up the practice of her profession. In this case it is necessary that the man should be an outsider and not a member of the Kasbi caste, because the quasi-marriage is the formal commencement on the part of the woman of her hereditary trade. As already seen, the feeling of shame and degradation attaching to this profession in Europe appears to be somewhat attenuated in India, and it is counterbalanced by that acquiescence in and attachment to the caste-calling which is the principal feature of Hindu society. And no doubt the life of the dancing-girl has, at any rate during youth, its attractions as compared with that of a respectable married woman. Tavernier tells the story 1 of a Shāh of Persia who, desiring to punish a dancing-girl for having boxed the ears of one of her companions within his hearing (it being clearly not the effect of the operation on the patient which annoyed his majesty) made an order that
1 Persian Travels, book iii. chap. xvii.
she should be married. And a more curious instance still is the following from a recent review :1 “The natives of India are by instinct and custom the most conservative race in the world. When I was stationed at Aurangābād— fifty years ago it is true, but that is but a week in regard to this question—a case occurred within my own knowledge which shows the strength of hereditary feeling. An elderly wealthy native adopted two baby girls, whose mother and family had died during a local famine. The children grew up with his own girls and were in all respects satisfactory, and apparently quite happy until they arrived at the usual age for marriage. They then asked to see their papa by adoption, and said to him, 'We are very grateful to you for your care of us, but now grown up.
We are told our mother was a Kasbi (prostitute), and we must insist on our rights, go out into the world, and do as our mother did.'”
In the fifth or seventh month of the first pregnancy of a 6. First Kasbi woman 108 fried wafers of flour and sugar, known as
pregnancy. gūjahs, are prepared, and are eaten by her as well as distributed to friends and relatives who are invited to the house. After this they in return prepare similar wafers and send them to the pregnant woman.
Some little time before the birth the mother washes her head with gram flour, puts on new clothes and jewels, and invites all her friends to the house, feasting them with rice boiled in milk, cakes and sweetmeats.
Though the better-class Kasbis appear to have a sort of 7. Different caste union, this is naturally quite indefinite, inasmuch as marriage, at present the essential bond of caste-organisation, is absent. The sons of Kasbis take up any profession that they choose ; and many of them marry and live respectably with their wives. Others become musicians and assist at the performances of the dancing-girls, as the Bhadua who beats the cymbals and sings in chorus and also acts as a pimp, and the Sārangia, one who performs on the sārangi or fiddle. The girls themselves are of different classes, as the Kasbi or Gāyan who are Hindus, the Tawāif who are Muhammadans, and the Bogam or Telugu dancing-girls. Gond women are
classes of women,
1 From a review of A German Staff Officer in India, written by Sir
Evelyn Wood in the Saturday Review,