Lavani and Powada: A Discussion on The Interplay of Caste, Gender and Sexuality

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


In 2002, Sharmila Rege documented the political struggles between two “caste-based forms of cultural labour,” Lavani and Powada. Rege noted that not only was the “masculine” powada given primacy over the “feminine” lavani, but as cultures of the marginalised castes in Maharashtra, the two dance forms were also recreated and “made popular” for other castes and classes.

Mangesh Kulkarni disagrees with the premise that powada was masculine, noting that the presence of an “effeminate male performer” in powada actually served as a discussion into the various gender and sexual identities in the context of Indian performances.

Sharmila Rege responds to a claim that her article suggests that “lower-caste men were unable to control the sexuality of their women.” Rege clarifies this misinterpretation of her argument, writing that the statement actually discusses how “Brahminical ideology” uses “gender ideology” to legitimise patriarchy and casteism.

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. In Search of Women in History of Marathi Theatre, 1843 to 1933, Neera Adarkar, 1991
  2. Reading Devadasi Practice through Popular Marathi Literature, Anagha Tambe, 2009
  3. When Labour Meets Culture, Ujithra Ponniah, 2020
  4. Restaging Marathi Theatre, Shanta Gokhale, 2013
  5. Dalit Women Talk Differently-A Critique of Difference and Towards a Dalit Feminist Standpoint Position, Sharmila Rege, 1998


Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—"Gender and Caste."


Curated by Anandita Chandra []



Modified. Wikimedia Commons/Ramesh Lalwani[CC BY 2.0]
Modified. Web Stock Review [CC BY 3.0]

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