Mrinalini Sarabai

Mrinalini Sarabhai is a celebrated dancer and choreographer and has achieved an international reputation that is unmatched by any contemporary Indian classical dancer. The syntax of her creativity mediates between a moral commitment to traditional form and the desire to claim one’s own experiments as unique, unrepeatable.

She is the founder-director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad, which came into being in 1949. She has traveled extensively all over the world and has received many distinguished national and international awards and citations for her contribution to the preservation of Indian classical dance. Called “the High Priestess of Indian dance” by dance critics, she is a pioneer in creative work and has given “new concepts to traditional dance forms with fresh perspectives and new mysteries.”

She is the first Indian to receive the medal and Diploma of the French Archives Internationales de la Danse. She was awarded the title of Natya Kala Sikhamani in Madras in 1960 in recognition of her artistic eminence and her unequalled performances of Bharatanatyam. In 1965, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. In 1968 she was honoured with a gold medal by the Mexican Government for her choreography for the Ballet Folklorico of Mexico. In 1969, Gujarat’s first State Award for dance was awarded to her for her unique contribution to the art. She is the first and only woman to receive a Veera Shrinkala for her contribution to the Kathakali dance form. In 1979 Mrinalini was awarded the D.Litt. degree for her eminence in dance and literature by the Rabindra Bharati University of Calcutta. She was honoured with the coveted Vishwa Gurjari award in 1984 for achieving a unique international reputation as a contemporary Indian classical dancer and for her contribution to Indian classical dance. She was awarded the prestigious Desikottama (D.Litt. Honoris Causa) degree, the highest honour of the Vishva-BharatiUniversity, Santiniketan, in 1987.

She was nominated to the Executive Committee of the International Dance Council, Paris in 1990. She was presented the Honor Summus Award by the Watumull Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii in 1991 in recognition of her outstanding success as a dancer, for her creative dance-dramas, and for her revival and preservation of Indian dance, drama and puppetry forms.

She was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 1992. She was made a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi in 1994. She was awarded the Scroll of Honour by the Vice-President of India in 1995 in recognition of decades-long research, experimentation and presentation of Indian classical and creative dance choreographic creations.

She was awarded the Kalidas Samman by the Madhya Pradesh Government in 1996 for her contribution to Classical Dance. She was honoured with the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (LittD) by the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK in 1997.

The Choreographer

Mrinalini has choreographed more than three hundred dance dramas including ‘Manushya-The Life of Man’, ‘Matsya Kanya’, ‘Vasant Vijayam’, ‘Nalakhyan’, ‘Tasher Desh’, ‘Geeta Govindam’, ‘Silapadikaram’, ‘Vikramorvasiyam’, ‘Meghaduta’, ‘Sarabhendra Bhupala Kuravanji’, ‘Gowri’, ‘Abhisarika’, ‘Usha Aniruddha,’ ‘Pallaki Seva Prabandham’, ‘Valli Kalyanam’, ‘Yasovarman’, ‘Nalakhyana’, ‘Malavikagnimitra’, ‘Krishnagaan’, ‘Prahalada Charitam’, ‘Pancharatna Kritis of Thyagaraja’, ‘Ashwatthama’, ‘Stree Priyadarshini’, ‘Bhakti’, ‘Bhama Kalapam’, ‘Maricha Vadham’, ‘Ahimsa’, ‘Kiratarjuniyam’, ‘Mohini Bhasmasura’, ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam’, Nataraja Vandanam’, ‘Memory’, ‘Vidhi Natakam’, ‘Kumara Sambhavam’, ‘Shakuntala’, ‘Chandalika’, ‘Atma’, ‘Revelations’ and ‘Surya’, Her latest dance dramas, the musical, ‘Krishna-Gopala’ and ‘This Mahabharata’ mirror today’s world.

The Writer

Mrinalini has written novels, poetry, plays and stories for children. Amongst these are: Captive Soil (play), This Alone is True (novel), Devadasi (novel), Understanding Bharatanatyam (text book of Bharatanatyam), Bharatiya Nritya (on dance), Bharatiya Nrityakala (on dance), Longing for the Beloved (homage to Lord Shiva), Kan (mystical poem), Sacred Dance of India (on dance), Creations (essays on choreographic experiments), 'Vision of Vasavadatta" (co-authored with John D. Mitchell of Institute of Advanced Studies in the Theatre Arts (IASTA), New York - on Bhasa's epic Play"Swapna Vasavadatta"), The Mahabharata (poem), Krishna my Beloved (Poem), Return of Bharata (Play), Urmila (novel), Nala – Damayanti, Krishna - The Prince of Brindavan, Kiratarjuniyam, Ramayana, Geeta Govinda, Usha – Anirudha, The Youngest Dancer, Stories of India and Krishna.

She has also written, and continues to write articles for journals, magazines and the arts on subjects that vary from the English language to the influences of herbs and mudras on health, to the silk route and the patola textiles of
India and the South Eastern trade routes.