Melodic scales excelling in sensuous affect were the hallmark of courtesan song and dance. These so-called rakti ragas ‘worked’ and secured their patronage, sometimes aided by love-potions or other aphrodisiacs. Several compositions for dance hint at these practices. For example, the padam “Patari varukutu” composed by Ghanam Krishna Iyer (late eighteenth century) in the rakti raga Kambhoji and tala rupaka, speaks of a love infatuation that causes trembling, fainting and weakness. The dancer confides that her lover covered her with maya-podi while singing raga Kambhoji. This refers to aphrodisiac powders that heighten the intoxication of love.
(‘Sringaranta: Eros Fragmented in: music, dance and the art of seduction,’ by Saskia Kersenboom)

Over a phone call made to Rukmini Devi’s home in Adyar, Chennai, in 1977, Prime Minister Morarji Desai asked her if she would consent to be President. “President of what?” she asked. “President of India,” said the prime minister. She declined. Asked later why, she explained, “I like to go about barefoot. How could I have done that in Rashtrapati Bhavan? I detest arms and armaments. How could I have moved about with an AdC bearing guns in front of me and another behind me? And also as a committed vegetarian how could I have served meat to guests from abroad who cannot do without it…? Besides my life is bound up with Kalakshetra, the Theosophical Society, Madras. Delhi is … another universe…”
(‘The woman who said no: How Rukmini Devi chose dance over presidency,’ Gopalkrishna Gandhi, The Hindustan Times, March 4, 2016)

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah himself was an artiste of merit. He wrote 40 works: poems, prose and plays. He composed many new ragas such as the Jogi and Juhi. It has been held that he was, despite his girth, an accomplished dancer. He authored some fascinating plays on Krishna Ras Lila and is believed to have himself acted in them on occasion. He wrote Babul Mora Naihar, the haunting song describing a bride’s tearful farewell from her beloved father’s home. Apocryphally, it served as a metaphor for the Nawab’s own banishment from his treasured Lucknow.
(‘King of the arts’ by Amish Tripathi, Times of India, March 24, 2016)

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