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Women performers of Hindustani music until the first half of the twentieth century, came from tawaif and Devadasi families that were traditionally associated with the singing and dancing. The lives of these women performers and their predecessors in the late nineteenth century were marked by social stigma from sections of elite Indian society. They were often regarded as prostitutes and were labeled as a debauched lot. Despite these prejudices, women performers from this social milieu continued to pursue the learning and performance of music, and often acted as patrons to male musicians. The contribution of these women performers cannot be ignored, as a significant part of the musical tradition was kept alive by them.
Amritlal Nagar in this book throws light on the sociological and historical aspects of the tawaif tradition. His work is based on first-person accounts that he collected from women performers of this tradition. He also informs the reader of the many categories and the hierarchies that existed within the tawaif tradition.