Google Doodle Honours Sitara Devi: A Kathak Student Till The End

Sitara Devi was a Kathak stalwart who was describes as 'Nritya Samragini', which literally translates to the empress of dance, by Rabindranath Tagore when she was just 16.

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Google Doodle Honours Sitara Devi: A Kathak Student Till The End

Google Doodle Honours Sitara Devi: A Kathak Student Till The End


New Delhi:  Google has honoured Sitara Devi on her birthday with a doodle. Even a novice with absolutely no knowledge of the heritage she her name carries would have heard of her once in their life. Sitara Devi was a Kathak stalwart who was described as 'Nritya Samragini', which literally translates to 'Empress of Dance', by Rabindranath Tagore when she was just 16. She was born in a Brahmin family in Kolkata. Her father Sukhdev Maharaj was also a Kathak dancer and a Sanskrit scholar. It was on Rabindranath's insistence to revive the art of Kathak, that Sukhdev Maharaj had decided to teach his sons and daughters Kathak, and give the dance form a religious spin. 

When she was eight years old, following the customs of her time, her marriage was fixed. But she protested and demanded school education and as a result she was enrolled at Kamachhagarh High School. She soon impressed her teachers at the school with her excellence in dance and was asked by her teachers to teach other children for a performance.

Her knack for dancing was recognized by her father who initially put her under the tutelage of her elder sister Tara Devi. At the age of 10, she began giving solo performances.

Sitara Devi was passionately dedicated to Kathak and would devote hours to 'riyaz' of the art form. Her father had designed a strict regimen for her which included somersault, swirl, wrestle and swing around a tall horizontal pole 100 times with agility which she carried on till she was 75. 

On her demise in 2014, Pandit Birju Maharaj, who himself hails from a family of Kathak maestros and teachers, recalled how she had visited his home and entreated his father and uncles to teach her Kathak. He said that in an age when women were not allowed to dance, she did the unimaginable. She did the 'Gandha bandhan' ceremony with Acchan Maharaj, Birju Maharaj's father. 'Gandha Bandhan' is a traditional ceremony of acceptance between a teacher and a disciple. 

Sitara Devi was also a teacher and some of her famous students include Madhubala, Rekha, Mala Sinha, and Kajol. She also wanted to set up a Kathak dance academy in Mumbai but was not granted land by the government. 

Not just for students of Kathak but for everyone with a zest for learning in life, Sitara Devi is an example of how dedication, passion and practice come together to mark a life-long learning and success in life. 

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