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Akshay Mahajan (photographer) Mohammed Altaf (background artist, Bhopal)
[The Begums of Bhopal]
Provided by the artist - Akshay Mahajan
The Begums of Bhopal
This fable reads, in antiquity a devastating drought threatened the city of Bhopal. The Begum of Bhopal called on her people to for ideas to invoke rain. The citiy’s Kinnars took out a procession from the Masjid to the Temple of a local Goddess. Carrying delicately balancing saplings of Millet on their heads they danced and the rain gods obliged. Since then very year on a day in August a procession of the Kinnars travels from a Mosque to a Temple to invoke rain. Before we go forward let me address questions of etymology, the word Hijra is from the Arabic meaning “transitory” and Kinnar from “point of interestion. These are just two of the numerous names for traditional transgender communities in South Asia. Now to the scenes at hand. Rukshana Begum, poses in a performative manner for the camera. Reacting to an old painted backdrop, I installed at Peer Gate, a busy street square in the old city of Bhopal. "Call me Roxy, my friends call me Roxy", slowly unfolding her colour coordinated umbrella and using it as a prop. Ruksanna is part of the Budwara deyaar, on of two surviving gharanas (communes) where she lives with fellow Kinnars. These gharaanas were once centers and unofficial venues Hindustani classical music and dance. Now the community has been forced to ask for money at weddings instead of dancing at them. But elements of the performance and past acceptance shine through Roxy's ghoomars all in the hopes for some precipitation.
I'm indebted to Ram Rahman for bringing this series to my attention.