Sitara Devi

Sitara Devi Kathak Dancer

Sitara Devi is a well known classical Kathak dancer of India, born at the day of great Indian festival Diwali in Kolkata in 1920. As she was born on Dipawali, she has also named as Dhanalakshmi (nickname of which is Dhanno). She belongs to the Brahmin family of the Varanasi. Her father, Sukhadev Maharaj, was also a Kathak performer and teacher. Her mother, Matsya Kumari, belongs to the Royal family of the Nepal. Kathak was the source of income as well as fervor of her family. Her father had passed all his talent (Kathak, Bharatanatyashastra, Sanskrit) to his children (daughters are Alaknanda, Tara, Dhano and sons are Chaube, Pande).

She was depicted as the Nritya Samragini by the Rabindranath Tagore when she was just 16. Rabindranath Tagore encouraged her to revitalize the Indian arts through the Kathak. Still, She is known as the Kathak queen of the India. Till now she has performed in many corners of India as well as other countries. In 1967, she performed at Royal Albert Hall London and in 1976 at Carnegie Hall New York.

She had to face the rage of the people from community in order to start her Kathak career. As at that time there was not the craze of the Kathak to perform socially. Even, she entitled as the prostitutes. She got confidence by her father’s such statement: If Radha could have danced for the Lord Krishna, why not our girls? Her family changed their residence from Kolkata to Varanasi and her father started teaching Kathak to his own children as well as outside children.

Her family got shifted to the Mumbai when she was 11 where she has performed her Kathak at the Atiya Begum Palace in the presence of the Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore and Sir Cowasji Jehangir. Rabindranath Tagore has requested to perform her at the Tata Palace (from Tata Group) as he was much impressed of her. For this she got a shawl and a gift of Rs. 50 as an appreciation from the Rabindranath Tagore. Then she recalled his father’s words that “Don’t take only the gifts! He is a great man: ask for his blessings”.

Marriage Career

She followed the Indian tradition and got married to the director K. Asif when she was just 8. Again she got married to the Pratap Barot and has a son named Ranjit Barot. Her marriage life was not successful. She had opposed to celebrate the marriage and requested her bridegroom’s family to be in a school. First time, she has performed in a cultural program based on the legendary story of Savitri and Satyavan at her Kamachhagarh High School. She has won the heart of her teacher by her fabulous dance performance. After that event, she was allocated to teach Kathak to her co-performers as well. She became famous by the name Sitara (means star) for her dance performance through the Aaj news.

Death of Sitara Devi

Kathak queen Sitara Devi has died on 25th of November 2014, at Tuesday in the hospital at her 94. The memorial service was completed on Thursday morning after returning of her son-in-law Rajesh Mishra from abroad.

She was admitted in the hospital for few days and kept on the ventilator because of her serious condition on Monday however she passed away on Tuesday at the Jaslok hospital in Mumbai. She was suffering from kidney problems and died due to the failure. Few weeks earlier she was admitted to the Cumballa Hill Hospital and Heart Institute of Mumbai because of the abdominal and pancreatic complications for which she got operated about three weeks ago.

Dancing Career of the Sitara Devi

She has started her dancing career by performing at the Jehangir Hall, Mumbai as her first public debut. At her 12, she was selected by the Niranjan Sharma (film maker and dance director) for performing some dance sequences in the Hindi films. Movies like Usha Haran, Vatan, Nagina, Roti, Mother India, Anjali which she has performed Kathak. She has been choreographer for Kathak since 1930s. Her choreography has given the new ways to the film industry.

Awards and Recognitions

She has awarded with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1969, the Padma Shree award in 1973, Kalidas Samman award in 1995 and Nritya Nipuna award. Some of her other awards are:

  • She got best actress award for the movie ‘Vatan’ and ‘Najam’ in 1943.
  • She has awarded for performing at the Royal Albert and Victoria Hall in 1967 and for prestigious Carnegie Hall, New York in 1976.
  • She has also awarded with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademy award and Padmashri award by the Indian government.

It is considered that she has rejected to get the Padma Bhushan award as she felt that it was her insult, not an honor. She told that she will not accept award other than Bharat Ratna. She also danced Bharatanatyam, folk, Russian ballet and some type of western dances. She taught her Kathak style to some of the Bollywood film celebrities such as Madhubala, Mala Sinha, Rekha, Kajol and many more. She is one of the popular living legend and traditionally known as the kathak queen.

Sitara Devi, a Kathak legend, has honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 for her great contribution towards the classical Kathak over the six decades.

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