The tamasha (a Persian word meaning “fun,” “play,” or “spectacle”) originated at the beginning of the 18th century in Maharashtra as an entertainment for the camping Mughal armies. This theatrical form was created by singing girls and dancers imported from North India and the local acrobats and tumblers of the lower-caste Dombari and Kolhati communities with their traditional manner of singing. It flourished in the courts of Maratha rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries and attained its artistic apogee during the reign of Baji Rao II (1796–1818). Its uninhibited lavani-style singing and powerful drumming and dancing give it an erotic flavor. The most famous tamasha poet and performer was Ram Joshi (1762–1812) of Sholapur, an upper class Brahmin who married the courtesan Bayabai. Another famous singer-poet was Patthe Bapu Rao (1868–1941), a Brahmin who married a beautiful low-caste dancer, Pawala. They were the biggest tamasha stars during the first quarter of the 20th century. The tamasha actress, commonly called the nautchi (meaning “nautch girl,” or “prostitute”) is the life and soul of the performance. Because of their bawdy elements, women never see tamasha plays, nor do respectable men.
Source: Brittanica Online Encyclopedia