Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

“Speaking like an expert lover”: Gendered voice in the Telugu padam

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What does it mean for the male poet to speak to god in the voice of a female lover? This talk features the padams (short lyrical songs) of fifteenth century Telugu poet Annamayya and the seventeenth-century figure Kshetrayya to unpack the convention of gendered voice in South Indian śṛṅgāra (erotic) poetry. I will examine the padams attributed to Annamayya and Kshetrayya from the perspective of textual sources and contemporary dance performance. 


Dr. Harshita Mruthinti Kamath (she/her) is Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Associate Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature and History at Emory University. Her research focuses on the textual and performance traditions of Telugu-speaking South India. Her monograph, Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance (University of California Press, 2019) analyzes gender impersonation in the Telugu dance style of Kuchipudi. She has also co-translated the sixteenth-century classical Telugu text Theft of a Tree (Pārijātāpaharaṇamu) with Velcheru Narayana Rao, which will be published as part of the Murty Classical Library of India (Harvard University Press, 2022). Her next research project focuses on the padams (short lyrical songs) of fifteenth-century Telugu poet Annamayya. Dr. Kamath’s research has been supported by grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies, Fulbright-Hays, American Association of University Women, and National Endowment for the Humanities. 


This talk is part of the 2021-2022 UCR Department of Dance Colloquium. For more information about the series, please see here.


As we strive to constantly renew our commitments to social and racial justice as a department, we acknowledge and recognize our responsibility to the original and current caretakers of the land where UC Riverside is located: The Cahuilla, Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano peoples (see full land acknowledgement). The life of our department and the upkeep of our facilities are maintained by the labor of so many people to whom we are grateful. Special thanks to Melanie Ramiro, Performing Arts Marketing Specialist, and Lily Chan Szeto, Department of Dance Event Specialist.

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