Bayadeer (Port, dailadeira, a dancing woman), a professional dancing and singing girl of India. The bayadeers, more commonly called nautchnees, or nautch girls, are recruited from almost every condition in life, but the better class are generally from the families of merchants and laborers. They are chosen for beauty, apprenticed to dhyas, themselves superannuated nautchnees, and subjected to a course of severe physical training, by which they acquire great suppleness and quickness of motion, and graceful carriage. They are also taught singing and various arts of adornment. The kite dance, in which the bayadeer assumes the various postures of one flying a kite, is among the most famous and popular of her performances. If, as is frequently the case, the nautchnee has been devoted to the service of the gods from her infancy, she enters a temple and becomes a dexadasee or slave of the gods, taking rank according to the caste of her family, the importance of the divinity, and the endowment of the temple; here she assists at the formal services of the shrine, celebrates in songs, generally licentious, the deeds of the god or goddess, dances before the image, decks it with flowers, and attends it with dances and songs when it is carried abroad in procession.

Devadasees are excluded from ceremonies of peculiar solemnity, such as funeral sacrifices and suttees. In order to be admitted to the sisterhood of devadasees the nautchnee must be under the marriageable age, and free from physical defect. If of a high caste, she is confined to the inner temple, and as long as her charms survive she serves the passions of the Brahmans. If she has children, the girls are educated to be nautchnees and the boys musicians. The devadasees of the Soodra caste rank lower, but enjoy more freedom; when not on duty in the temples they are at liberty to go abroad, and their earnings are their own. They attend, when sent for, at the houses of the noble and the wealthy, to assist with their songs and dances at weddings and other feasts. The devadasees receive stated wages in money and rice. The inferior class add to these resources the fruits of an infamous profession. Every temple entertains a troop of 8, 12, or even more devadasees. Sometimes the nautchnee becomes a kunchenee, a doomin-ca, or a bazeegharnee, terms for the different sorts of dancing girls who wander through the country in troops of 10 or 12 to entertain strangers with music and dancing.

These attend at chooltrees or inns, or at the garden houses of wealthy Hindoos; and in all the large cities of Hindostan there are sets of these nautchnees under the management of dhyas, ready to be hired for religious or other purposes. The nautch girls form a distinct body in Hindoo society, living under the protection of government and regulated by the peculiar rules of their order. Their costume is cumbrous, of rich material, gayly colored, and consists of a pair of embroidered trousers, a petticoat containing at least twelve breadths, gold or silver fringed, and a coortee or vest, half hidden by an immense veil which crosses the bosom several times, hanging down in front, and at the back in broad ends. The hands, arms, neck, legs, toes, feet, ears, and nose are decked with gold and jewels, and the hair is braided with silver ribbons and confined with bodkins of beautiful workmanship. The dance is, strictly speaking, a pantomime, explained with music, in which commonly the old story of love and its troubles is related.

Bayadeer.

Bayadeer.