Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022
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Bihar/Culture

Patna's Long Forgotten Nightlife Of Tawaifs And Bordellos

Once known as Azimabad, Patna was a centre of dance and music. The sound of anklets and taans of singing by the tawaifs may have fallen silent, but their tales remain alive.

Patna's Long Forgotten Nightlife Of Tawaifs And Bordellos
Faded glory Allah Jilai’s tomb

Every day around dusk, a striking voice would rise up in the sky somewhere in the distance. Badi Kaneez, a famous courtesan (tawaif) and renowned singer of Azima­bad­—as Patna came to be known after Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s grandson Azim-us-Shan (1664-1712) rechristened it after himself—was quite young at the time, but this would make oth­ers stop in their tracks. “As the sound grew nearer, one felt that the entire ambience was getting intoxicated by her lovely voice.

After a while, you would see a middle-aged woman in a Neemwar Fatgi (particular dress) walking slo­w­ly from Kashmiri Kothi towards my neighbo­u­rhood, the Sadar Gali. She would stop after a few steps, and then her trained voice would mesmerise onlookers as the notes burst forth,” Badi Kaneez is quoted as saying in Syed Badr­u­d­din Ahmad’s Urdu memoir Haqe­e­qat Bhi Kah­ani Bhi: Azimabad Ki Tahzibi Daa­s­taan (1988). “Shopkeepers stopped their work and pedestrians stood where they were, to listen to her. Thus, she would pass my colony singing and walk up to Shahdara. There, the song would stop and she would disappear into the unkn­own,” she adds.

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