The life story of Bangalore Nagarathnamma is a MUST KNOW for any Carnatic music or dance aspirant!
Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of witnessing a skit dedicated to her; a story of courage, sacrifice and inspiration. The theatrics were phenomenal, acting was immaculate, but what fascinated me the most was the valour and unshrinking attitude of Nagarathnamma.
For those of you who dont know, Bangalore Nagarathnamma was a Devadasi. A devadasi whose immense love for the art forms drove her to protect them, even when the odds were stacked against her.
Even to this day, the word ‘Devadasi’ sparks controversy. Initially, they were women who dedicated their lives to temples, to perform art forms such as dance and music. They were considered married to God and had a high social status.
The change started in colonial times. Academics dispute what the British thought of the custom, but their presence meant that kings and other patrons of temples lost their power and much of their economic influence.
So needless to say, many decades ago, she was shunned by the male-driven, misogynistic society and looked down upon.
The society was misogynistic to such an extent that the handful of women who were brave enough to perform were boycotted and humiliated , as Male accompanying artists thought it was ‘below their dignity’ to play for a woman.
There were numerous such instances where female artistes were discriminated against.
Bangalore Nagarathnamma was a woman way ahead of her time.
Her determination to bring about equality gets me contemplating on how different her attitude was , compared to the attitude of modern day feminists. Unfortunately , modern day feminists demand equal rights,but shy away from equal responsibility. In numerous cases, such as the Sabarimala case, modern day feminism has proven to be nothing but HYPOCRISY.
It’s only because of REAL feminists like Bangalore Nagarathnamma, that Carnatic music is as inclusive as it is today.