The Last Courtesans of Bombay


Sep 2, 2019


This podcast series uncovers the mysterious world of Bombay’s courtesans to find a rich history of women who subvert patriarchy, defy gender stereotypes and uphold feminist intellectual tradition. The podcast, hosted by Kunal Purohit, reveals the cultural histories that are slowly being extinguished because of political intervention and social stigma, and are in danger of being lost, forever.

Many of the podcast interviews are in Hindi or Urdu. English translations for the episodes are available at the links below.

Episode 1: Bombay has a rich courtesan legacy, but it’s shrouded in secrecy now. Our host, Kunal, tries to find a connection to this insular world. Episode 1’s English-language transcript is available here.

Episode 2: Finally, a family of courtesans from the secretive Mujra community opens up. A trained Urdu poet and a singer-dancer discuss their craft and their place in society. Episode 2’s English-language transcript is available here.

Episode 3: A mother-daughter courtesan duo reflects on their divergent paths, and how much this matrilineal culture has changed in just one generation. Episode 3’s English-language transcript is available here.

Episode 4: With Mujra in decline, a neighborhood that was once the nerve center of Bombay’s courtesan culture struggles to stay alive. Episode 4’s English-language transcript is available here.


Written By Kunal Purohit

Kunal Purohit is an independent journalist, writing on politics, gender, development, migration and the intersections between them. He is an SOAS alumnus. He has previously written for the Hindustan Times, The Times of India, and The Wire, among other publications. He tweets at @kunalpurohit.


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