Rukmini Devi Arundale| Important revivalist of Bharata Natyam

When Bharata Natyam was considered a low and vulgar art in the 1930s Rukmini Devi espoused the cause of this classical dance form despite strong public protests. 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 was considered as the most important revivalist in the Indian classical dance form of Bharat Natyam from its original 'sadhir' style,prevalent amongst the temple dancers,Devadasis,she also worked for the re-establishment of traditional Indian arts and crafts.

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.


 Rukmini Devi was born on 29 February 1904 in an upper class Brahmin family in Madurai.Her father in 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 Theosphical 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 Cantral Hindu College in Varanasi,and soon build a lasting bond with him.

   They got married in 1920 much to the shock of the then conservative society.


         In 1928,the famous Russian ballerina Anna Povlova visited Bombay and the performance,and later happened to travel on the same ship as her,to Austrelia 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 dehest 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.


         Originally known as sadhir,the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam owes its current name,to E.Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale,who has been instrumental in modifying mainly the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam and bringing it to the global attention,and removing the extraneous sringaar and erotic elements from the dance,which were the legacy of its Devadasi association in the past,thereby raising it to the status of puritan art form.


         In 1977,Morarji Desai offered to nominate her for the post of President of India,which she turned down. Rukmini Devi Arundale died on 24 February 1986 at Chennai.               

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