Search engine Google on Wednesday dedicated its doodle to ‘Nritya Samragini’ Sitara Devi on her 97th birth anniversary. In the doodle the Kathak legend is seen in a pink costume posing elegantly at the centre of the graphic, with the accompaniments of instruments — ghungroo, tabla and sitar — taking the place of the remaining alphabets in the word ‘google’. The eminent classical dancer was born in 1920 to a Brahmin family from Varanasi living in Kolkata (then Calcutta). Her father Sukhadev Maharaj was a school teacher but practised and performed Kathak, as well. Sitara Devi started with solo performances at the tender age of 10.
When her family shifted to Bombay (now Mumbai), she gave a Kathak performance in the Atiya Begum Palace before a select audience, which included Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu and Parsi philanthropist Sir Cowasji Jehangir. At just 16, Sitara Devi enthralled her audience. So impressed was Tagore with her performance that he gave her the title “Nritya Samragini” (the empress of dance). Sitara Devi presented Kathak at international venues like the Royal Albert Hall, London, and Carnegie Hall, New York. She has also been part of many Bollywood movies like “Usha Haran”, “Nagina”, “Roti”, “Vatan”, “Anjali” and “Mother India”. She has been a mentor to many Bollywood actresses and taught them Kathak. Madhubala, Rekha, Mala Sinha and Kajol are some of them.
A recipient of Padma Shri, Kalidas Samman, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Nritya Nipuna, Sitara Devi was also an accomplished dancer in many other styles including Bharatanatyam, folk dances of India, Russian ballet and other western forms. After a period of prolonged illness, the Kathak maestro breathed her last on November 25, 2014 at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai.