February 29th is a unique day & this lady who was born on in 1904 was not only unique, but also extraordinary.
She protected our Dharma from treacherous missionaries and her name was #RukminiDevi.
The Christian missionaries and British officials presented
“nautch girls” of Uttara & “devadasis” of Dakshina Bharat as evidence of “harlots, debased erotic culture, slavery to idols and priests” tradition, and Christian missionaries demanded that this must be stopped, launching the “anti-dance movement” in 1892.
The anti-dance camp accused the dance form as a front for prostitution, while revivalists questioned the constructed colonial histories.
In 1910, the Madras Presidency of the British Empire altogether banned temple dancing.
And then, there were widespread protests across Tamil Nadu, but for couple of decades nothing progressive happened, finally with the help of #KrishnaIyer, this story’s Heroine #RukminiDeviArundale came as saviour for the great art #BharataNatyam.
Rukmini Devi Neelakanda Sastri (29 February 1904 – 24 February 1986) was an Indian theosophist, dancer and choreographer of the Bharatanatyam, and she was also an activist for animal rights and welfare & the first woman to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
Rukmini Devi featured in India Today’s list of ‘100 People Who Shaped India’.
She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956,
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1967.
Rukmini like her father got inspired by theosophical society and in 1920 married a Brit, George Arundale.
In 1928, she befriended a Russian Ballet Artist Anna Pavlova & their friendship grew, Rukmini started learning Ballet from one of
Anna’s troupe girl and Anna insisted Rukmini to learn Bharatiya Natya instead.
In 1933, at Madras she watched SADHIR, Devadasi style of dance.
Infatuated by what saw, Rukmini started learning from Mylapore Gowri Amma & with the help of Krishna Iyer, she continued her studies under Meenakshi Sundaramman Pillai.
In 1935, at Golden Jubilee Fest of Theosophical Society Rukmini gave her first performance.
In January 1936, along with George Arundale, Rukmini established #Kalakshetra at Adyar, Chennai.
The forgotten dance form #BharataNatyam was revived by Rukmini & Krishna Iyer and brought it to Global Attention.
They included Violin, established new kinds of sets, designed temple jewellery accordingly, took enormous pain in reviving Bharatanatyam.
Please remember British had banned due to Christian Missionaries.
She approached many famous artisans across fields from priests to musicians to sculptures to painters.
The result was Magical and Magnificent.
Rukmini Devi Arundale brought Ramayana, Mahabharata, Geeta Govinda, Usha Parinaya, Kumara Sambhava, Shabhari Moksha, Seeta Swayamvara ON STAGE.
Rukmini Devi was nominated for Rajyasabha in 1952 again in 1956.
She during her tenure brought Prevention of Cruelties for Animals Act and under her Chairmanship, was instrumental in bringing Animal Welfare Board in 1962.
Rukmini was also VP of International Union of Veg’s from 1955 till her death in 1986.
In 1977, Morarji Desai offered her the post of President of Bharat which Rukmini declined.
The life of a legendary artist & the woman who revived Bharatanatyam came to an end on February 24th 1984 at Chennai.