Vintage Devadasi and Nautch photos

Prof. Frances Pritchett, Columbia University, New York
Image Courtesy:

I recently came across the webpages of Dr. Frances W. Prichett, professor of Modern Indic Languages at the Coulmbia University, New York. The collection in her website are one stop short of being marvelous. Every webpage has the mark of his meticulous documentation on various India-related topics. One such topic that caught my attention was a page titled “Women’s Spaces” and voila, what do I see? Some superbly amazing vintage photos of nautch and devadasi photos. The source of these photos are another eye-brow raiser, which is Ebay. That’s right, some of these photos were (are?) for sale in the hard copies!!!

While the webpages have photos from all parts of India, I have culled from them the most interesting ones and my favorites (Watch out for the “photoshopped” one!). And for those who wish to see the entire collection, I have the entire collection as well below.

Click on images to see bigger size (my comments in italics)

“Dancing girls of Pondicherry,” from ‘Naturgeschichte und Abbildungen des Menschen der verschiedenen Rassen und Stamme nach den neuesten Entdeckungen und vorzuglichsten Originalien.’, by Heinrich Rudolf Schinz, published in Basel by Honeggerschen Lithographischen Anstalt, 1836-45.

“Dance of the Bayaderes,” from ‘Voyage aux Indes orientales et a la Chine’ by Pierre Sonnerat, 1782 (vol 1, pg 41)

Dancing girls and musicians from Madras, a drawing by Christopher Green, c.1800 (Representation of the Dancing Girls on the Coast of Coromandel, Christopher
Green (c. 1745–1805) Copyright The British Library Board WD 4510)

“Devedassis or Bayaderes,” by Frederic Shoberl, ‘The World in Miniature: Hindoostan’ (London: R. Ackerman, 1820’s)

“Bayadere,” from Marechal’s ‘Costumes of the World’, 1782

“Devedaschie, of Indiasche Danseresse,” from Jacob Haffner’s book Reize in eenen Palaquin, 1808 (vol1, pg 224)

“The Dance of the Apsaras,” a relief from Bharhut, in the Indian Museum, Calcutta; a photogravure (1925) – One of the oldest sculptural descriptions of court dance, Gupta Period

Coolie life in India–an operatic performance,” from The Graphic, 1878 (looks like a street dance drama)

A Hindu dasi, or nautch girl,” a print from a watercolor by Lady Lawley, 1914

The upscale modern “classical” dancer: a travel poster, Government of India, 1962 (Kamala Lakshman)

Nautch girls, Hyderabad; a photo by Hooper and Western, 1860’s

A Nautch Girl [from Ceylon], from Customs of the World, ed. by Walter Hutchinson, London, 1931

Gentoo dancing girls from Madras, displaying jewellery,” a photo by Nicholas and Curths, 1870

Studio portrait of a dancing girl, Madras, c.1890’s (Note the “photoshop” around the waist, a routine editing technique used in early photographs)

“Dancing beggars of Southern India,” an engraving, Illustrated London News, 1863 (Not sure why it is titled as beggars)


Here is the rest of the vintage photos

Click on the first image to start the slideshow and if you want to see a larger image, right click and open in a new window.


4 responses to “Vintage Devadasi and Nautch photos

  1. Pingback: Indispensable ornament of the religion – Jacob Haafner on Devadasis | Bharathanatyam and the worldwide web·

  2. Pingback: Vintage Nautch Photos | Bharathanatyam and the worldwide web·

  3. Pingback: Devadasi: A Cultural Destitute – Athens·

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