Legendary classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai passes away

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Ahmedabad, Jan. 21 (ANI): Legendary classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai passed away here this morning. She was 97.

Sarabhai was born in Kerala on May 11, 1918. She was the daughter of social worker and former Member of Parliament Ammu Swaminathan. Her father, Dr. Swaminathan was a renowned barrister at the Madras High Court and principal of the Madras Law College. Her elder sister, Lakshmi Sehgal, was the commander-in-chief of Subhas Chandra Bose’s ‘Rani of Jhansi Regiment’ of the Indian National Army ( Azad Hind Fauj) and her elder brother, Govind Swaminathan, was a famous barrister who practiced in Madras as a specialist in constitutional and criminal law apart from civil law and company law. He served as the attorney general for the State of Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) with great distinction.

She spent her childhood in Switzerland, where, she received her first lessons at the Dalcroze School, a Western technique of dance movements. She was educated at Santiniketan under the guidance of Rabindranath Tagore where she realised her true calling.

She then went for a short time to the United States where she enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. On returning to India, she began her training in the south Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam under Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and the classical dance-drama of Kathakali under the legendary Guru Thakazhi Kunchu Kurup.

Mrinalini married well known Indian physicist Vikram Sarabhai who is considered to be the Father of the Indian Space Program in 1942. She had a son, Kartikeya and a daughter Mallika who too went on to attain fame in dance and theatre.

Mrinalini was the founder director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. She was well-known for her experimental reforms in Bharatnatyam and Kathakali, which helped to preserve and popularise the traditional art form.

Vikram Sarabhai had a troubled marriage with Mrinalini. According to his biographer Amrita Shah, Vikram Sarabhai sought to fill the personal void in his life it by dedicating himself to applying science for social good.

Besides choreographing more than three hundred dance dramas, and training over 18000 students, Mrilani was the author of many novels, poetry, plays and stories for children. She was the chairperson of the Gujarat State Handicrafts and Handloom Development Corporation Ltd. She was one of the trustees of the Sarvodaya International Trust, an organisation for the promotion of Gandhian ideals, and the chairperson of the Nehru Foundation for Development (NFD). She also wrote an autobiography titled Mrinalini Sarabhai: The Voice of the Heart.

During her lifetime, she received a number of national civilian awards, including the Padma Bhushan in 1992 and the Padma Shri in 1965. She was honoured with the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (LittD) by the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK in 1997. She was also the first Indian to receive the medal and Diploma of the French Archives Internationales de la Danse. She was nominated to the Executive Committee of the International Dance Council, Paris in 1990[2] and awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, New Delhi in 1994. She was presented with a gold medal by the Mexican Government for her choreography for the Ballet Folklorico of Mexico. (ANI)

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