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Archiver > INDIA > 2011-01 > 1294411865

From: "Arvind Kolhatkar" <>
Subject: Re: [INDIA] Meaning of Bai
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 09:51:05 -0500
References: <011301cbacbf$260b0ae0$0100000a@JOAN>
In-Reply-To: <011301cbacbf$260b0ae0$0100000a@JOAN>


I believe the word 'Bai' is originally a Marathi word and its plain meaning
is 'woman'. In Marathi it is also customarily used as a suffix attached to
the name of a woman to show respect. as in Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Jijabai
the mother of Shivaji etc. Lady teachers are called `Bai` in Marathi. The
corresponding word for a man is `Bua``. Traditionally and more for the
older generation, all Hindu male singers of Indian classical were called
`Bua` as in Bhaskarbua Bakhale, Yeshwantbua Joshi etc. (Muslim male singers
were called Khan as in Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bismillah Khan etc.)

Borrowed into other languages, the word Bai has got other meanings that are
indicative of the status of the woman, usually a lower one. In Mumbai and
especially with Gujaratis, Parsis and other communities who reside there, a
Bai means a maidservant. In North India it describes a woman professional
singer/dancer and these were not held in high esteem when such arts were
considered leisure activities for the rich and the idle. To make things
more complicated, the older Parsi generations called their women as Bai
Jerbai, Jer being the actual name of the lady. Bai Pirozbai is another
instance of such use in the Parsi community. (The Bai Jerbai Wadia Library
of the Fergusson College of Poona has been named after its benefactor, Jer

I hope this clarifies...

Arvind Kolhatkar, Toronto, January 07, 2011.

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