A famous dancer and an animal lover and champion of vegetarianism, Rukmini Devi was nominated twice to the Rajya Sabha.
Rukmini Devi had a many-faceted personality. She had the vision of a poet and looked at the beautiful side of things. It was this sense of beauty that made her life a thing of joy.
Rukmini Devi Arundale tirelessly spread the message of Indian art and heritage within the country and outside. She was not only a famous dancer but also an animal lover and a champion of vegetarianism. She was nominated twice to India`s Upper House of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, where she pushed and got passed the Bill for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Morarji Desai suggested her name for the office of President of the Indian Republic. It was she who brought Maria Montessori to India and organized her public talks and set up the first Montessori kindergarten in India.
Rukmini Devi was born at Madurai on February 29, 1904 -during the auspicious Mahamagam festival. Rukmini Devi was one of eight children of her parents. Her father Nilakantha Sastri belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family of Sanskrit scholars.
Rukmini Devi Arundale married George Arundale, a foreigner and a leading member of the Theosophical Society. The marriage helped her to get exposure to foreign audiences and also to widen her mental horizon. Once she went to meet Anna Pavlova, a dancer of fame and recognition.
This was a turning point in her life. She expressed to Pavlova, her desire to dance with her, to which she replied, “You don`t have to dance, for if you just walk across the stage, it will be enough. People will come to watch you do that”. These words of Anna Pavlova created in her the enthusiasm for dancing.
Rukmini Devi Arundale learnt Sadir, the art of the devadasis from a hereditary guru and displayed her marvelous achievement under a banyan tree at the International Theosophical Conference. First she renamed Sadir as “Bharata Natyam”, the dance of Bharata.
This struck a deep dual chord, not only does it mean the dance of the sage Bharatha (author of the Natya Shastra,) but also connotes the dance of `Bhaarata` (India), the land of the hero Bharata. Moreover, it stands for Bhava (emotion), Raga (melody) and Tala (Rhythm), the three components of the dance.
Rukmini Devi Arundale was the founder of Kalakshetra `The Temple of Arts`. Training in Kalakshetra was perfect. Rukmini Devi was a purist who never compromised on the quality of classical arts. There were great masters like Papanasam Sivan and Mysore Vasudeva Acharya as the staff of Kalakshetra.
The teaching was in Gurukula style. Most of the classes were in the open, under the shade of the great banyan trees of Adyar. It was like the Shantiniketan of Tagore. .Kalakshetra will remain as a living monument to her. Besides Kalakshetra, she found schools in mem-ory of Annie Besant and Arundale.
The great dancer died on February 1986. Rukrnini Devi Arundale was India`s cultural queen and her life reflected a many-sided splendour. Posterity will remember her not only as a leading exponent of Indian art but also as a fearless crusader for social change.
Rukmini Devi Arundale had charm, vision, deep-rooted moral convictions and remark-able courage. Rukmini Devi left a memorable imprint on our culture and art. No other person, in recent history, has contributed so much to Indian art as Rukrnini Devi did, and therein lie her greatness.