Today’s Google Doodle celebrates 97th birth anniversary of noted Indian Kathak dancer Sitara Devi. Sitara Devi was born in Kolkata on this day in 1920. Her forte was Kathak, but she equally excelled in other dance styles including Bharatanatyam and different folk dances of India. It is said that when she was just 16 years, after watching her performance, the great Rabindra Nath Tagore had described her as Nritya Samragini, the empress of dance.
Sitara Devi was born in a Brahmin family, originally from Varanasi, and later settled in Kolkata. Her father, Sukhadev Maharaj, a Vaishanavite scholar of Sanskrit, earned his livelihood by teaching and performing kathak dances in different parts of India. Her mother was Matsya Kumari, who held a relationship with the royal family of Nepal. Her first guru was her father Sukhadev Maharaj.
Sitara Devi Early Life
Devi started giving giving solo performances at the age of ten, mostly during the fifteen-minute recess during movies in a cinema of her father’s friend. Her commitment to learning dance left her with very little time, and she did not continue her schooling. By the time she was eleven, her family shifted to Mumbai. Soon after reaching Mumbai, She gave Kathak performance in Atiya Begum Palace before a select audience, which included Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and Sir Cowasji Jehangir.
When she was a twelve-year-old girl, Devi was recruited by Niranjan Sharma, a filmmaker and a dance director. She acted in a number of Hindi movies in which she did dancing roles. However, she stopped accepting movie offers in the sixties as she felt that it was affecting her dance. Devi died on November 25, 2014, at the age of 94 in Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital where she was admitted.
She had first married to Nazir Ahmed Khan then to K Asif, the director of Mughal-e-Azam and later Pratap Barot with whom she had a son, Ranjit Barot, a longtime associate of A. R. Rahman and leading drummer in the world.
Sitara Devi Awards
Government of India honoured Devi with a number of awards including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1969), the Padma Shree (1973), Kalidas Samman (1995) and Nritya Nipuna.