The street of music, the gathering of adab, the worship place of virtue, the market of skill and the Banarasi noble tradition is called Dalmandi. Banarasi has a vast tradition of music and Dalmandi is an incomprehensible source of that tradition.
The history of Daal Mandi of Banaras is very rich. The elixir of art is dissolved in it. It cannot be compared with GB Road in Delhi, Kamathipura in Mumbai or Sonagachi in Kolkata. Here there was the opulence of the arts, there was a sugar candy of beauty. It was the Gangotri of literature.
The whole Banaras was restless to get a glimpse of Champabai, where Champabai’s melody and admiration in Dalmandi were restless. There were some who used to play on their lives. Champa Bai. As soon as I heard the name, suddenly I felt a feeling of blooming of Champa flowers in some corner of my mind. Don’t be surprised The end of this story is beyond your imagination. Champa Bai was a famous tawaif of Dalmandi in Banaras. Bala’s beautiful, nameless dancer. Music connoisseurs used to give life to his songs.
Delicacy, decency, manner of behavior, spot retaliation, unmatched in all. People used to come to his gathering to learn admiration and respect. As soon as he stepped into the gathering, his heart used to rise and his senses used to get lost in some ‘interval’ of time. Such was his fame.
Due to which the fountain of radiance, light, melody, tenderness and Saurabh was flowing. No one has ever seen so much form, beauty and uniqueness gathered in one place. She used to spread her form, youth, item, Saurabh on the house. The elite of Banaras used to try to get a glimpse of this Champabai. There were some who used to play on their lives.
Time has defamed Dal Mandi
The street of music, the gathering of adab, the worship place of virtue, the market of skill and the Banarasi noble tradition is called Dalmandi. This was the shelter of the great poets Jaishankar Prasad and Bharatendu. Here no one is small or big, all are equal. To come here, one just needs to have interest in music, knowledgeable in culture and good in the ant. Banarasi has a vast tradition of music and Dalmandi is an incomprehensible source of that tradition. It is also to be understood that Dalmandi was not a brothel. There was a gathering of songs. And the world of music was lit up.
Time has defamed Dalmandi so much that even though Dalmandi became famous in the world, the name of this locality is not even recorded in the revenue documents of Banaras. Once upon a time, in this locality, Parsi theater artist Aga Hashr Kashmiri used to live. The house of Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan was the Sarai Hadha of this locality. Actually, the name of the street which people know as Dalmandi between the Chowk and the new road is Hakim Mohammad Jafar Marg. On one side of this street is Chamama and on the other side Resham Katra Mohalla.
Bismillah became immortal by taking Brijbala’s bandish into the shehnai
Shehnai Nawaz Ustad Bismillah Khan used to say that if there were no kothas or tawaifs, then today Bismillah would not have been Bismillah. He believed that the kind of solid singing that was on the place, it was not available anywhere else. Brijbala was the tawaif of Muzaffarpur. Khan Saheb was a resident of Dumrao. Both of them met in a gathering.
And this tawaif made Bismillah Bismillah. In ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’, Bharat Vyas’s song ‘Dil Ka Toy Hi Tut Gaya’ was the tune of Brijwala. Khan sahib became immortal by this. Khan Saheb used to say “I used to do a lot of Riyaz with him. I lowered his bandh into the shehnai and that breath of mine became immortal. It is a matter of fact that Khan Saheb became Bharat Ratna and Brijbala got lost in the darkness of oblivion.
Traditions of tawaifs
These traditions of cultural history are two and a half to three thousand years old. The quadrilateral places of Awadh, Banaras and Muzaffarpur have been the living centers of this history. The mention of ganikas is also found in the Buddhist period. You must know the story of Amrapali. Seeing its brilliance, Buddha had given it entry in his vihara. Till then women were banned in Buddhist monasteries. A dancer who performs the lyrics of traditional Mujra, Geet, Ghazal, Bandisho in soulful dance style is called Tawaif. These dancers danced in the ‘Peshvaj’, which consists of a circular tunic on the upper part of the body and churidar pajamas on the feet.
Tawaifs usually did not perform jism phroshi. These tawaifs usually spent their lives as the protectors of a king, a nawab, a nobleman or a white sahib. His job was to decorate the gathering and ecclesiastical singing every evening.
In Awadh they were also called Paturia. By the way, the Tawaif tradition of Kashi was very rich, that’s why Bhartendu has written in ‘Premyogin’ “Aadhi Kasi Bhaat Bhandoria Bamhan and Sanyasi. Aadhi kasi randi mundi rand khangi khasi.
But there is a big thin difference between a tawaif and a courtesan. ‘Tawaif’ is the plural form of Arabic ‘Taifa’ which means a group of people, especially a group of singers. The dancer involved in this troupe is called ‘Tawaif’. In the Middle Ages, the houses of nobles and landowners used to have mujra in marriages or other festivals. Many tawaifs used to attend Mujre along with their companions. The definition of tawaif is also found in the dictionary. The dancers who dance in Mujra are called Tawaifs.
The British messed up during the days of British colonialism in India. Keeping all the dancers in the same category, they called them ‘Notch Girl’. Due to this, this gap in understanding started to disappear. In these records, chronicles, gazetteers, written with English glasses, they were all called Notch Girl.
The most authentic writings on this subject are those of the English writers Pran Neville and Francesca Orsini. Whereas the authentic writing in Hindi is ‘Ye Kothewalian’ by Amrit Lal Nagar.
(Anoop Narayan Singh, writer is a member of the film censor board)