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Kathak queen Sitara Devi passes away

Born in 1920 in the then Calcutta, Sitara drew from the themes, poetry and choreography collected by her father in her choreographies. She also got inspired from the environment around her--be it a town or a village.

As condolences poured in after Sitara’s death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled her ‘rich contribution’ to Kathak.

‘PM has condoled the passing away of noted Kathak dancer Sitara Devi. PM also recalled her rich contribution to Kathak,’ the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.

The characters around the Kathak queen came alive in her dance. ‘By training, I am just a ‘kathakar’ of Krishna-leela (tales of Krishna),’ the danseuse used to say.

Kathak, which literally means ‘katha’, is a narrative drama which evolved out of the Krishna temples of hinterland to scale the pinnacle of glory in the Muslim courts.

Sitara’s roots were inextricably woven to the tradition of ‘kathakars’, the early Kathak dancers.
She was born Dhannolakshmi to a family of Brahmin ‘kathakar’ Sukhdev Maharaj and chose school and dance over an early wedding, as was the norm of the 1920s.

Her father, a Vaishnavite Brahmin scholar and Kathak exponent, sent her to a local school where she impressed her teachers and the local media with her performance in a dance drama, ‘Savitri Satyavan’.

When her father learnt of it, he re-christened her as Sitara or the star and placed her under the care of her older sister for kathak training.

By the time Sitara turned 11, the family moved to Mumbai, where she impressed Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore with a three-hour solo recital. Tagore offered her a shawl and Rs 50 which Sitara refused and instead sought his blessings instead to become a great dancer.
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