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A Quick Glance at the Mirasins of Awadh

Origins and etymology

Wedding songs are traditionally sung by women associated with a particular social group called mirasi. Mirasi is derived from an Arabic word ‘Miras’ which means heritage and Mirasi refers to the keepers of this heritage.

 

 

Patronage

Mirasins were often patronised by certain landholding groups.  Entire Mirasin families were associated with some specific estates on a hereditary basis to which they remained ‘loyal’. Some of the caste groups that were associated with them are nais (barbers), julahas (weavers), and kumhars (potters) among many others.

Repertoire

 Mirasins have songs for almost all life cycle rituals such as births, aqeeqa, bismillah ceremony, weddings, farewells and even death rituals. For each of these occasions there were special songs. Many songs were scripted by the Mirasins themselves, but they also sang the kalaams of Amir Khusro, Ghalib, and others.

Gali genre

One important genre of wedding songs is the gali (abusive) songs which were and continue to be an integral part of most wedding celebrations. Here the family of the groom and that of the bride engage in some playful teasing by abusing each other.

Training

Most of those involved in the occupation do not receive any special training from any ustad. They learn from their elders. The men of the mirasin families are often qawwals. They too sing on special occasions, but enjoy a higher status in comparison to the women.

Instruments

While the accompanying instrument for mirasins is just the dholak, the qawwals use other instruments such as harmonium and tabla as well.

 

Some of the wedding rituals for which songs are sung

For the bride’s family, it begins with Milad or Quran khani (recitation of naats in praise of Allah) followed by shahana or mubarakbaad (Congratulatory song), maayun/ maanjha, sehra bandhi, reception of baraat, nikah, rukhsati and chauthee. For the groom’s family sehra bandhi and surma lagai, dola rukai and waleema were especially important. Additionally, there are occasions such as joda takai during which the gota (lace) is stitched on the bride’s dupatta which is to be worn during the nikah.