Pay Tribute to Famous Bharatnatyam Dancer Rukmini Devi

Who is Rukmini Devi?

Rukmini Devi Arundale (29 February 1904 – 24 February 1986 ) was an Indian theosophist, dancer and choreographer of the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam, and an activist for animal rights and welfare.

She is considered the most important revivalist in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam from its original ‘sadhir’ style, prevalent amongst the temple dancers, Devadasis, she also worked for the re-establishment of traditional Indian arts and crafts.

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Though she belonged to the Indian upper-caste she espoused the cause of Bharata Natyam, which was considered a low and vulgar art in the early 1920s. Recognizing the beauty and the spiritual value of this art form, she not only learned the dance, but also presented it on stage despite strong public protests.

Rukmini Devi features in India Today’s list of ‘100 People Who Shaped India’.She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956, and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1967.

We should honored well known dancer and choreographer of Bharatanatyam, Rukmini Devi Arundale on her 112th birthday with a doodle.

Born: February 29, 1904

Passed Away: February 24, 1986

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Her Contributions to shaped India 

Rukmini Devi Arundale was a reputed dancer and choreographer of Bharatnatyam, an Indian classical dance form. Her charismatic personality and contribution to the renaissance of Indian Classical music attained her niche in the arena of Indian culture. It is believed that Rukmini Devi had declined the chair of the President of India, once offered by Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister of India. Rukmini Devi was also known for her efforts towards the protection of animal rights and their welfare.

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Her Early life and marriage

Rukmini Devi was born on 29 February 1904 in an upper class Brahmin family in Madurai. Her father Neelakanta Sastri was an engineer with the Public Works Department and a scholar, and Seshammal was a music enthusiast. He had a transferable job and the family moved frequently. He was introduced to the Theosophical Society in 1901. Deeply influenced by the Theosophical Movement as a follower of Dr. Annie Besant, Neelakanta Sastri moved to Adyar, Chennai upon retirement, where he built his home near the headquarters of the Theosophical Society Adyar. It was here that young Rukmini was exposed to not just theosophical thought, but also new ideas on culture, theatre, music and dance, and later met the prominent British theosophist Dr. George Arundale, who was a close associate of Annie Besant and later the principal of the Central Hindu College in Varanasi, and soon build a lasting bond with him.

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They married in 1920, much to the shock of the then conservative society. After marriage, she travelled all over the world, meeting fellow theosophists and also forging friendships with the educator Maria Montessori, and the poet James Cousins.In 1923, she became the President of the All-India Federation of Young Theosophists, and the President of the World Federation of Young Theosophists in 1925.

In 1928, the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova visited Bombay and the Arundale couple went to her performance, and later happened to travel on the same ship as her, to Australia where she was to perform next; over the course of the journey their friendship grew, and soon Rukmini Devi started learning dance from one of Anna’s leading solo dancers, Cleo Nordi. It was later at the behest of Anna that Rukmini Devi turned her attention to discovering traditional Indian dance forms, which had fallen to disrepute and dedicated the rest of her life into their revival.

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Awards

In 1956, Rukmini Devi was awarded the Padma Bhushan and in 1967, received the “Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship”. She also featured in India Today’s list of ‘100 People Who Shaped India’.

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