The last quarter of the twentieth century has seen the emergence of a “cult of pluralism” (Chakrabarty) in the writing of Indian history, thus challenging the standardized narrative of the nation. The hegemonic accounts of India’s struggle for independence, which have failed to acknowledge the involvement of many significant warriors, make the inextricable links between power, history, and representation quite apparent. One such exclusion is that of the tawaifs2 of Awadh.3 This hypocrisy combined with the facade of respectability has eclipsed the contribution of tawaifs, demoting them to singing and dancing girls merely. By looking at the role of Begum Hazrat Mahal in the Revolt of 1857, this paper intends to add another dimension to both the understanding of tawaifs and the historiography of the revolt. It also seeks to question the inclination of historians to focus on the participation of men and ignore women, especially those women from marginalized demographics. The study foregrounds the role of tawaifs in the changing discourses of colonialism and nationalism, with the goal to problematize their invisibility in academic discourse. Kenizé Mourad’s biographical fiction, The City of Gold and Silver, is taken as a case study to focus on the production of counter- narratives. A thorough examination of the various aspects of Begum’s personality calls into question history’s selective representations. Furthermore, by focusing on the Begum’s political life, the paper seeks to correct the false image of Awadh’s tawaifs and kothas4 and to restore the lost voices of the unsung heroines.
"Redrawing the Contours of Nationalist Discourse through the Voices of Courtesans-Turned-Warriors,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 25:
5, Article 6.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol25/iss5/6