“Padma Bhushan Mrinalini Sarabhai was born on May 11 and this year, Google celebrated the day with a Google Doodle dedicated to the ace danseuse. Her daughter Mallika Sarabhai, too, is an Indian classical dancer and a renowned social activist.
RTIwala Trending: Artistic, elegance and a quintessential performer, Late Mrinalini Sarabhai was one of very few women of substance of her times. At a time when performing arts was a taboo for women, the Padma Bhushan award winner proved her innate passion to excel against all odds. In spite of having a highly educated parental background, she was sent to Switzerland when she confessed her dream to become a dancer in front of her family. Back then, upper-class families in Southern India perceived women dancers as those with questionable morality.
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Mrinalini Sarabhai and a magnificent family of achievers
Sarabhai was born in Kerala on May 11, 1918. Her father, Dr. S. Swaminathan was a criminal lawyer at Madras High Court, while her mother, Ammu Swaminathan was a social worker and was an active participant in the independence of India. Lakshmi Sehgal, her sister, was the Commander-in-Chief of the ‘Rani of Jhansi’ regiment under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Adding more to the unmatched contribution of the family, Sarabhai’s brother, Govind Swaminathan was a famous barrister, specialized in civil, criminal and company laws.
“Dance Is My Breath, My Passion, My Self&It Was Not To Meet The Current Desires Of The Audience That I Began To Create New Works, But To Meet An Innate Need To Express My Involvement With The World Around Me The World I Live In. Breathed In, The World Of Constant Dualities, Joy-Sorrow, Life-Death, Love-Hate, Creation And Destruction& Renowned Dancer And Choreographer Mrinalini Sarabhai Is Single-Handedly Responsible For Taking Classical Indian Dance Beyond The Shores Of India And Making Bharatanatyam A Dance From That Is.”
–Late Mrinalinini Sarabhai,The Voice of The Heart, an Autobiography
Her innumerable claims to the Google Doodle tribute
After being sent off to Switzerland by her parents in order to distract her from her passion for dance, she went on to enroll herself in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the USA. Moving on, she attended Shantiniketan under the guidance of Sri Rabindranath Tagore. At Shantiniketan, Mrinalini Sarabhai shared her room with Indira Gandhi and Kamala Chaudhary. While the former went on to become the Prime Minister of India, the latter founded the first of its kind, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). Till date, it is the best management institute of the country with a commendable set of alumni.
Mrinalini Sarabhai: Marriage never hindered her passion & success
In 1942, she tied the nuptial knot with noted physicist, Vikram Sarabhai. Vikram Sarabhai is known as the Father of the Indian Space Program. In the following years, there were reports of troubles in their relationship which saw Vikram Sarabhai investing most of his time and emotion to the country’s betterment on science and technology front.
Later, she went on to become the chairperson of the Nehru Foundation of Development and a trustee to the Sarvodaya International Trust. In the year 1949, she established the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts and has trained over 18,000 dancers hence. The Ahmedabad- based institute excelled in training students in dance, drama, puppetry, and music.
In 1965, the Government of India awarded Mrinalini Sarabhai with Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards of the country. Moving ahead, she was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in the year 1992. She was also honored with the Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of East Anglia in the U.K. in the year 1997 and was the first Indian to receive the medal and Diploma of the French association Archives Internationales de la Danse. After her choreography for the Ballet Folklorico of Mexico, Sarabhai was presented a gold medal by the Mexican Government. The year 1990 saw her being nominated for the Executive Committee of the International Dance Council in Paris. A few years later, in 1994, she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academy Fellowship in New Delhi, India.
Mrinalini Sarabhai, an enigmatic performer par excellence left for the heavenly abode on January 21, 2016. On her 99th birth anniversary, team RTIwala salutes the spirit of an unabashed and unprecedented performer of life and the art of dancing that Late Mrinalini Sarabhai continues to remain in our hearts.