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A chance meeting on a cruise ship with the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in 1928 changed the direction of Rukmini Devi Arundale’s life.

The great Pavlova urged her young admirer to study classical Indian dance, which had fallen out of favor.

Arundale did just that, and she fell in love with what she learned about traditional Indian dance, especially the ancient Bharata Natyam. She dedicated the rest of her life to its revival and became a celebrated and beloved performer, choreographer, and teacher.

And she used her voice to share her message in radio broadcasts, speeches and lectures around the world.

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On this day in 1968, Arundale delivered the first of three lectures on “Facets of Indian Culture” at the Sri Avinasalingam Home Science College in Coimbatore, India. She wanted her audience to understand the importance of preserving the ancient Indian arts and culture.

“Since India attained freedom, there has been a great awakening in regard to the glory of our culture which the whole world admires,” she said.

“Unfortunately our education has remained as dry and un-Indian as ever, and in some respects is even more westernized than before. . . The cultural character of the country cannot be promoted without vision, without understanding the roots.”

 

“The cultural character of the country cannot be promoted without vision, without understanding the roots.”

Arundale and her husband George Arundale, a well-known Theosophist, founded the Kalakshetra Foundation, an academy of dance, music and Indian thought in Madras (now Chennai). The campus in Thiruvanmiyur is spread over almost 100 acres of sand dunes along the coast of the Indian Ocean.

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In 1952, Arundale became the first Indian woman nominated to membership in the Rajya Sabha, the Indian Parliament’s Council of States.

She continued to travel the world, giving lectures and promoting traditional Indian arts and culture until her death in 1986.

 

 

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