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.
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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