Google doodles on 97th birthday of Kathak legend Sitara Devi
Mumbai: Google on Wednesday paid rich tribute to eminent Kathak dancer Sitara Devi on her 97th birth anniversary. The legendary dancer, who was born on November 8, 1920, was described as Nritya Samragini by Rabindranath Tagore at the age of just 16.
The family of Sitara Devi, who was born in Kolkata, originally belonged to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Her father Sukhdev Maharaj was also a Kathak dancer and a scholar of Sanskrit. Her mother Matsya Kumar was related to the royal family of Nepal.
Her father always inspired his children to learn dance overlooking the criticism he faced from his community. He was encouraged to do so by Tagore himself.
She started learning Kathak at a very early age and by the age as young as 10 years, she had started giving solo dancer performances on stages. Out of her love for the art, she shifted to Mumbai, then Bombay, and could not continue her schooling.
She performed in from of some renowned personalities including Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore and Sir Cowasji Jehangir. Being amazed with her performance, Tagore felicitated her with a shawl and a gift of Rs. 50.
As she turned 12, she was selected by filmmaker and dance director Niranjan Sharma in Hindi films. She performed in a number of Hindi films including Nagina 1951, Roti, Vatan 1954, Anjali 1957.
Sitara Devi blended the elements of two schools of Kathak -- one which was developed in Banares (east Uttar Pradesh) and one from Lucknow, (Oudh, or north Uttar Pradesh), and represented a forgotten era when Kathak used to be performed the whole night.
During her career, she performed all across India and even abroad, including prestigious venues like Royal Albert Hall, London (1967) and the Carnegie Hall, New York (1976).
She, however, did not have an equally good personal life as compared to her professional life. She married twice and both her marriages ended on a bitter note.
Among her famous students were Madhubala, Rekha, Mala Sinha and even Kajol among many more. She wanted to set up a Kathak dance academy in Mumbai, but got no land from the government.
Sitara Devi received a number of awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969 and the Padma Shree in 1973.
She, however, had refused to accept the Padma Bhushan in 2002 saying, "It is my insult and not an honour. I will not accept any award less than Bharat Ratna."
Sitara Devi breathed her last on November 25, 2014.
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