Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of Indian Kathak legend Sitara Devi on 8 November. The country’s leading exponent of the art form, she was addressed as Nritya Samragini (Empress of Dance) by Rabindranath Tagore.
Hailing from Varanasi, Devi was born into a Brahmin family in Calcutta. Being born on Diwali, she was originally named Dhanalakshmi. Her father Sukhadev Maharaj was a dancer and scholar. Although he wanted to pass on his art form to his children, he faced a lot of criticism from others for encouraging his daughters to dance.
However, Devi’s passion was not going to be doused and therefore, to pursue it fully, she moved to Bombay, present day Mumbai. Performing to a select audience comprising of poets, writers and scholars, Devi stunned everyone with her elegance. Deriving inspiration from the Benaras and Lucknow school of Kathak, she revived an art form by devoting herself to it fully. At one of her performances, Tagore rewarded her with Rs 50 and a shawl, calling her the Empress of Dance.
During her illustrious career, her talent was recognised and honoured by both the government and the people. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969, followed by the Padma Shri in 1973. Known for living life on her own terms, Devi left a void in the artist community when she passed away in 2014.