Decoding Gaj Gamini: The Walk Of Seduction

It was the night before a long weekend began when I decided to give the highly anticipated series, Heeramandi, a watch. The series began with setting the context of the rivalry that followed between the two key courtesans. While I was in the midst of getting the hang of the plot and digesting the allure of its opulent sets, I heard Manisha Koirala’s character talking about her daughter Bibbojaan.

Now, it’s tough to put it in words but the name somehow stuck with me. Bibbojaan was named exactly how she was characterised, she was the epitome of strength, femininity and enigma. It was not too long before Bibbojaan (played by Aditi Rao Hydari) made her first appearance on the celluloid with a dance sequence.

Aditi Rao Hydari is seen performing a mujra (a form of exotic dance performed by courtesans) for Fardeen Khan’s character, Nawab Wali Mohammed against the backdrop of Shahi Mahal. The sequence started with Bibbojaan greeting the Nawab followed by intentional tease-y lyrics for sexually arousing him. The mujra then featured a standout scene that later held the social media in a chokehold. Yes, I’m referring to the walk.

My initial reaction to the walk was being dumbstruck with dilated pupils. It was a lazy, almost off-beat kind of walk making it look less intentional and hence, more believable. When she turned back, her doe eyes were that of a frightened deer and the movement of her neck made her look like a vision of mystique. Her audacious showcase of back flaps and a fuller stomach healed my inner child and how.


Days after the series was released, this walk took over my reels and I did what most people do the moment they see an eye-catching reel – I headed to the comment section! I anticipated the comments to be flooded with netizens tipping their hat to Aditi Rao Hydari’s effortless portrayal of a tawaif and mastering the walk, but alas, reality took over my utopian fantasies and came across in the form of comments claiming the walk went viral for “obvious reasons.”

Now what is the “obvious reason?” Her ability to seduce by just acing a walk? Yes! It indeed is the obvious reason, and why shouldn’t it be? This way of walking has been given a special mention in Kamasutra and is called the Gaj gamini, a walk as strong and regal as that of a female elephant.

To be honest, I’ll never be able to fathom the hypocrisy we bring to the game when it comes to embracing our century-old erotic literature the world goes gaga over. We hold the cultural significance of our religious scriptures so close to our hearts but at the same time not own up to books, poems, manuscripts, paintings and sculptures of Shringar Rass. Ironically, while the world applauds the teachings of Kamasutra, the country where it was born is all coy and shush about it.

So without any further ado, it’s high time we dissect the Gaj gamini in the context of its historical mentions and other cinematic portrayals.

This is what the history holds

The walk finds its roots in Indian classical dance forms where it embodies strength and raw sexual power and is inspired by the majestic gait of a female elephant. Swaying of the hips along with slight movement of the torso is considered the epitome of sheer elegance in the dance form.

If we take Kamasutra’s writer Vatsyayana’s words under consideration, he goes on to categorise women as Padmini, Mohini, Dunkini, Shrukini, Damini, Rohini, and Gaja Gamini. The writer draws a parallel between the walk of a woman and that of a female elephant because the latter is often used synonymously with being the lustiest creature on this planet. Vatsyayana labels Gaja Gamini to be the walk of pure seduction.

Also seen in…

After finding out this walk was previously performed by icons like Madhuri Dixit Nene and Madhubala on celluloid, the internet can’t stop but draw parallels between the three actresses and their seductive prowess that reflected through the screen.

Madhuri Dixit Nene starred in a movie titled Gaja Gamini which was created by M.F. Hussain. It is often said that the latter was inspired by a specific verse written in Kalidasa’s Meghadūta for Madhuri’s character and cast her accordingly.

As far as the legendary Madhubala’s walk is concerned, she embodied sheer elegance and poise in her walk that was a part of the song Mohe Panghat Pe in Mughal-e-Azam.  It is also speculated that the Gaja Gamini was also performed by Deepika Padukone in the song Mohe Rang Do Laal from Bajirao Mastani, but the heavy costume obstructed the subtle movements of her waist that were immaculately captured in the rest of the above.

But after drawing similarities between these actresses, all I felt was remorse. Who did it better? Who did it worse? Does it really matter when at the end of the day a walk is responsible for sexualising these ladies, who portrayed nothing but sheer elegance? Our erotic scriptures and fictions have lessons on how to hold women in high repute and let them embrace their femininity. It’s not even concerning at this point, it’s just sad how the male gaze is responsible for ruining a strut that was nothing more than embodying the strength and poise of a female elephant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if men rely on objectifying women in order to corroborate their masculinity, then well, it sounds like a you problem.

- Digital Intern


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