The story of Sitara Devi is one of inspiration. A woman who was far ahead of her time, who fought against all odds to pursue her dreams, and emerge victorious. Here is the story of the Kathak Queen.
Sitara Devi is fondly remembered as the queen of Indian classical dance form of Kathak. Seeing her perform once, Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore called her the “Nritya Samragini”- the Kathak queen.
Born on November 8th, 1920 in Calcutta, now Kolkata, Sitara Devi is a legend who continues to inspire people.
Sitara Devi was first named “Dhanalakshmi” being born on the first day, Dhanteras, of the Indian festival of lights, called Deepawali. Sukhadev Maharaj, her father and teacher, instilled the magic of Kathak in her since an early age.
It is important to note that Sitara Devi performed Kathak at a time when people considering dancing an unholy profession for girls. Her father fought against all odds and taught his children the traditional ancient art of Kathak in a bid to keep the traditional arts alive. He was even exiled by the community for doing so but he never gave up.
A Legend is Born
Sukhdev Maharaj arrived in Varanasi city, which is located on the banks of the River Ganga. He established here a school to train children in the classical dance form of Kathak.
From the early age of 10 years, Dhanalakshmi started amazing audiences with her magical stage performances and shot to instant fame. Even the local dailies were full of praises for this new star. Thus was born “Sitara” (meaning “star”), as her father re-christened her.
The Empress of dance later acquired worldwide fame and even performed in famous movies of her time.
Association With Other Dance Styles
Sitara Devi was always keen to learn new forms and was open to new ideas. She even knew the South Indian dance form of Bharatnatyam and other traditional folk dances. Sitara Devi also had a liking for western dances and in fact, learnt the Russian Ballet too!
Remembering Sitara Devi
On November 8th, 2017, Google honoured the legendary dancer on her birthday. She played a pivotal role in taking Kathak dance to the masses and is also known for her performances in some of the most famous concert spaces in the world including the Royal Albert Hall, London and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
She passed away on November 25, 2014, but left her rich legacy that still inspires others to follow their dreams, no matter what.