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Dr. Maya Rao (Hattangadi) – A Virtuoso in Kathak and Choreography -- (Part II)

Dr.Maya Rao (Hattangadi) at her desk

A Harmony in Dance and Music in real life

On December 27, 1964, Maya Rao married Nataraj (M.S.Natarajan) in Madras. Even after the marriage, she had to be in Delhi and Nataraj in Bangalore, in view of their respective individual careers. In retrospect, Maya Rao felt that she had sacrificed her married life in pursuit of her art and career in Dancing and Choreography. On February 24, 1971, Maya Rao and Nataraj were the proud parents of their only daughter Madhu. Coincidentally, the parents had lost their son born exactly 5 years earlier and on the same date (February 24, 1966) Initially, her daughter was not given a name due to a pending pilgrimage to be undertaken by Maya Rao as per a religious custom. During this intervening period, she was being called “Dayya”, which in her mother tongue (Konkani) means “God”. Madhu took to dancing as a fish takes to water, due to the natural talents inherited by her from her mother.

1960 – 1970

When Maya Rao was in Moscow at the GITIS as a Post Graduate, she had to take up a theme, make an adapted script, read it out to a Panel of Examiners and present one or two scenes from it on the stage. This was the ultimate task to get a Certificate for Choreography in the Post Graduate Course. She decided to take up “Amir Khusrau”, the poet who was a promoter of peace, as the project assignment for the PG course. “Meer” in Russian language means ‘peace’. The ancestors of Amir Khusrau hailed from Tajikistan, which belonged to the Soviet Union. His ancestors were all soldiers, but he was the only one who was not a soldier in the family. Amir Khusrau was born in Itawah, U.P., while his tomb is on Mathura Road in Delhi, opposite the tomb of Humayun, the Mogul Emperor. Maya Rao collected a lot of information from the library in Moscow where there were oriental manuscripts, paintings and plenty of information about the poet. Govind Vidyarthi (a scholar of Persian and Urdu) who was in Delhi and who was her very good friend sent her beautiful ghazals for the scripts. Balasanyan (a Nehru Awardee and composer of “Shakuntala” the ballet for which she was the consultant choreographer) who was in Moscow provided her Tajik music for a dance sequence used by her. Maya Rao was awarded the Post Graduate Degree Certificate in Choreography from GITIS, Moscow, in 1964 before returning to India.

1970 – 1980

In 1970, Maya Rao was asked to present a Ballet on ‘Amir Khusrau’ by the Amir Khusrau Centenary Committee in Delhi, where the 7th Centenary celebrations were being celebrated. The ballet was performed in Kashmir and in Itawah in U.P. later, besides touring the country as well as abroad with the troupe winning many accolades for the brilliant theme and performances. The sitar, tabla, tarana and Quawali was used lavishly in the choreography since it was attributed to Khusrau. The Russians saw this performance in Delhi and decided to use it in the Amir Khusrau festival in Moscow, where it was lauded by the appreciable audience. Maya Rao was requested to present a feature or a ballet on the poet-saint Surdas in 1978 when the 5th Centenary celebrations were being celebrated in Delhi. Anil Biswas composed the music. The ballet was presented at the Kamini Auditorium as well as at the Pyarelal Bhavan in Delhi, besides at other centres where the Surdas Centenary was being celebrated. The presentation also won an International Award for Choreography and Filming in Paris.

1980 – 1990

In 1981, Maya Rao was awarded the “Nritya Vilas” Award from the reputed Sur Shringar Samsad, a Bombay-based Cultural Organisation , (which was celebrating its Silver Jubilee in 1981 at Bombay), for her eminent contribution to Kathak and Choreography. Besides her, Dr.Kanaka Rele, another artiste was also honoured with this Award, for her eminence in’ Mohini Attam’. On the same occasion Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was awarded the “Swar Vilas” Award, for his contribution to Hindustani Classical Music – Vocal) and Vidwan Voleti Venkateshwaralu for Carnatic Classical Music – Vocal). In the “Tantric Vilas” Award in Instrumental Music, the Award was conferred on N.Ramani (Carnatic Classical Music – Flute) and Ahmed Reza (Hindustani Classical Music – Vichitra Veena). The “Tal Vilas” Award for Percussion Instruments were awarded to Guruvayoor Dorai (Carnatic Classical Music – Mridangam), Narayana Indorekar and Ramdas (Hindustani Classical Music – Tabla and Pakhawaj, respectively)

Asian Games and Yoga

In the year 1982, the 9th Asian Games (popularly known as ASIAD) were held in Delhi. The Director of Culture, Delhi Administration, D.P.Sinha invited Maya Rao to choreograph a Yoga feature for the inauguration of the Sports Indoor Stadium. The Yoga performers belonged to Swami Dhirendra Bramhachari’s Ashram. It was a new experience and a new exposure for Maya Rao to choreograph 78 Asanas in a 30 minute presentation. The musical score was provided by Partho Das, the reputed music director. The climax of this presentation was the “Asiad Asana” composed by the Swami’s assistant, Bal Mukund. The entire Yoga presentation program was a mind-blowing success and had to be performed for the benefit of several International delegates.

SAARC Festival

In 1986, the SAARC festival was held in Bangalore, when Shri.Ramakrishna Hegde was the Chief Minister of Karnataka. It was named ‘Dakshini’. Maya Rao was invited by the Organisers to Bangalore from Delhi, to take charge of the folk dancers numbering about 1500, who were participating in the festival. Incidentally, she had the exposure of managing such performances in Delhi during the Republic Day Folk Dance Festival, with the support of Nirmala Joshi and Col.Gupte. As such, the new assignment in Bangalore did not prove to be a problem for her. The folk dance program was to be performed at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore, which was the main venue, other venues being the Malleswaram Playground and National Public School grounds in the city. The inaugural function was held in the Glass House at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, which was graced by Shri. Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, as well as the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Governor of Tamilnadu. The program choreographed by Maya Rao was a thundering success and very much appreciated by the visiting dignitaries to the festival. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri.Ramakrishna Hegde was very much pleased with the presentation given by Maya Rao, and, had given a personal assurance to her when she had met him in Delhi during his official visit in the early part of 1987, of providing all support for starting a similar Institute in Bangalore, akin to the one established in Delhi, provided Maya Rao was to settle down in Bangalore on a permanent basis and run the Institute. “Namma Oorige Banni” (in Kannada, meaning come home to our State) advised the Chief Minister. Unlike other politicians, who give personal assurances but hardly keep up their promises, Shri. Hegde seemed to be of a different mettle and calibre, as proved by him in keeping up his assurance. As soon as the Official Order confirming sanction of the project to start an Institute was received from the State Government, Maya Rao decided to wind up all her activities in Delhi once and for all and return to her home town – Bangalore – on a permanent basis. Vimla Rangachar, who was her childhood friend and a staunch supporter of the project, offered to provide accommodation to the proposed project in her mother’s building, constructed specifically for conducting cultural activities, located on the 17th Cross Road in Malleswaram, Bangalore. On July 12, 1987 Maya Rao established the “NATYA INSTITUTE OF KATHAK AND CHOREOGRAPHY” in this premises, which was inaugurated by Padma Vibhushan awardee Smt.Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, who was one of the driving forces behind the efforts of starting this Institute and who always rendered her support. The Institute received outright support from the Chief Minister, Shri. Ramakrishna Hegde, and his ministerial colleagues Dr.Jeevaraj Alva, M.P.Prakash , Chiranjeev Singh who was the Secretary, in the Department of Culture, and Vittal Murthy, Director for the Department of Culture. The Chief Minister and his State Government Officials were very happy with the nature of the work taken up by the Institute as well as the standard in the system of education which teaches choreography and the syllabus prepared for the students. Impressed by the efforts put in by Maya Rao to promote the culture of Kathak dance and choreography in the State, Maya Rao was nominated and appointed as the Chairperson of the Karnataka State Sangeet Nritya Academy by M.P.Prakash, Minister for Culture, at the behest of Shri. Ramakrishna Hegde, Chief Minister of Karnataka. Maya Rao held this post for a period of 3 years (1987-1990). In the year 1987, the Govt. of Karnataka had begun the Hampi festival and M.P.Prakash had requested Maya Rao to choreograph a ballet on the Vijayanagar Empire. The Ballet titled “Vijayanagar Vaibhava” which laid stress on the glory of the Vijayanagar Empire ruled by Krishnadeva Raya, the ‘Ashta Diggajas’ (eight poets) in his court, the war with Orissa Kings and Adil Shahi Kings, how Hampi was made the capital and how he encouraged music, dance and poetry in his court, was staged the next year. The performance of the ballet was a huge success and there were repeat performances. Maya Rao had utilized Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak as well as Yakshagana for this ballet. The ballet performance was also staged in Delhi, Bombay and at other centres and was well appreciated by the large audiences. (In 2010 during the celebrations of Krishnadeva Raya’s 500th year of rule, the ballet which was staged at Hampi and Bangalore was considered to be the ‘piece de resistance’ of the entire celebrations by the knowledgeable audience). During the tenure of Maya Rao as the Chairperson of the Karnataka State Nritya Academy, she initiated the National Performing Arts Festivals at Heritage Monuments in the State – the first one of which was at Somnathpura (1988) followed by performances at Pattadakkal (1989) and Halebidu (1990), with the able support of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi and the Department of Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka. During the tenure of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister, seven centres were established across the country. Each centre was to take charge of each zone to create awareness among the public about our rich heritage. The South Zone had all the four Southern States in it. Another achievement during her tenure was the cultural exchange of artistes from other State Academies with the local State Academy, to enable them to perform in festivals at other Centres/States. This was the first time in the history of all Academies that such an initiative was mooted very successfully. Due to this initiative several artistes like Kadri Gopinath (Saxophone exponent) Narsimulu Vadavatti (Clarinet artiste) performed at the Kedarnath Festival organized by the Uttar Pradesh Government and U.P. artistes performed at the festivals organized in the State. The renowned Singh Bandhu and Kiran Saigal from Delhi, Sanjukta Panigrahi from Orissa and many other artistes from all over India performed in the State festivals. Basavaraj Rajguru, the noted exponent of Hindustani Classical Music (Vocal) performed at the Heritage Festival at Somnathpura in 1988. He sang a beautiful composition in Raag Sarang (as he was to perform at noon) After this performance, he asked the audience in Kannada ‘Basaveshwara Vachana jaadsla, athava Purandara Dasa Bhajane jaadslaa’ (meaning whether he should roll out a Vachana by Basaveshwara or sing a bhajan composed by Purandara Dasa) He was mildly shocked and thrilled when the audience demanded only ‘Shastreeya Sangeet’ from him. Despite his age – he was over 70 years and needed assistance to help him on to the stage – he rendered endearing classical music to please the demanding audience. In this festival, Maya Rao had also invited Vyjayantimala Bali, an exponent in the art of dancing and a cine artiste to perform at Somnathpura. Other leading artistes from Bangalore like Prathibha Prahlad, Padmini Ravi, Usha Datar, Veena Murthy and Bhanumathi had also performed in a ballet titled ‘Pancha Kanya’. Mysore Veena Visweshwaran and flautist Suresh regaled the audience in the ‘Pancha Veena’ concert and the flute recital respectively. Gangubai Hangal, another prominent exponent of Hindustani Classical Music (vocal) performed at the Heritage Festival at Pattadakkal in 1989 in the inaugural ceremony. As the venue for the Festival was at Pattadakkal, a small place which lacked decent lodging facilities, all the artistes were accommodated at Badami, since this was the nearest town. In 1989. The ballet ‘Hoysala Vaibhava’ choreographed by Maya Rao was the main attraction at the Halebidu Heritage Festival held in 1990.

Maya Rao was awarded the Central Natak Akademi Award for Creative and Experimental Dance from Shri. R.Venkataraman,President of India. Noted theatre personality and actor, Shri Girish Karnad was the Chairman of the Akademi.

Dr.Maya Rao being honoured with the Akademi Award by President of India, Shri.R.Venkataraman at New Delhi. Girish Karnad, Chairman of the Sangeet Nataka Akademi is in the centre.

1990- 2000

Perini-Kathak Jugalbandhi

In the early 1990s, Nataraj Ramakrishna, the noted exponent of Andhra Natyam, whom Maya Rao and her husband Nataraj knew quite well, invited her to choreograph some features of Kathak for a Perini-Kathak jugalbandhi. ‘Perini’ is a style of dance mentioned in ancient treatises but rarely seen being performed. Ramakrishna revived this dying art feeling that Perini and Kathak had several similarities in rhythm, sound and pattern. Five dancers performed the five sequences choreographed depicting subtle patterns culminating in an artistic amalgamation. This artistic presentation was made before appreciative audiences on 1st November at Hyderabad and later at Bangalore, being the States’ Reorganisation Day, and at many more functions in both the towns.

Arjuna Jogi

Maya Rao choreographed ‘Arjuna Jogi’ for the Janapada Loka Parishad at the behest of Nage Gowda, who was one of the pioneers for setting up Janapada Loka, to encourage folklore and arts in Karnataka. The dance-drama was based on the folk music in the Jogi style of singing. The music as well as the vocal support was provided by Shankar Shanbhogue along with his team. The financial grant for this project was provided by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, Delhi. The premier show was staged at Ravindra Kalakshetra in Bangalore and the rest of the shows at the Janapada Loka near Ramnagara.

“Kaamanu Billu”

The Masti Foundation and the Directorate of Kannada and Culture approached Maya Rao to choreograph a dance-drama, featuring short stories in Kannada authored by Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, recipient of the Jnanapeeth Award. Three of his short stories together with a poem were chosen for the feature. The music was composed by Partho Das, a young and reputed music director from Delhi. The programme was staged at Ravindra Kalakshetra in Bangalore for the Masti Foundation. Both the inaugural and valedictory functions were funded by the Government of Karnataka. Later, this feature was presented in the Sangeet Natak Akademi Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bangalore.

“R adha Bansidhar Vilas”

This unique work was written by Shahji, the King of Tanjore in Brij Basha, and set to Carnatic music. B.V.K.Shastry, the well-known musicologist, obtained the script and requested Maya Rao to choreograph it. The opera which was presented as a Radio feature led by the celebrated singer Dr.Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna ( Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna) along with other Carnatic musicians, was rendered as a Dance Drama by Maya Rao. The roles of Krishna, Radha and Krishna’s friend were rendered by Dr.Sridhar, Shubhashini and Syed Sallauddin Pash, respectively. BVK Shastry helped in getting the grant from the Central Government for this production as it represented national integration.

“Vachana Vaibhava”

During the celebrations of Basaveshwara Jayanthi in Karanataka State, Maya Rao was requested by the Doordarshan Kendra in Bangalore to present a feature with ‘Vachanas’ of Basava and Akka Mahadevi. ‘Vachanas’ are verbal messages consisting of two or three lines. To create a composite piece, three or four ‘Vachanas’ had to be strung together. (This feature had been presented at many Veerashaiva centers, including Bagewadi where Basava was born, as well as at the Anubhava Mantappa near Bijapur, where Basava and other Veerashaiva poets gathered to express and exchange their philosophical thoughts. Such presentations have also been presented in America at the Veerashaiva centers). The lead performers for the TV feature were Suma Vijay (daughter of Shri.M.P.Prakash), Mysore Nagaraj and Prakash Naidu.

“ Kanakadhara”

This production was presented with a grant from the Ministry for Human Resources Development, Government of India, to portray the life and teachings of the famous saint-poet Kanakadasa. Music for this feature was provided by Shankar Shanbhogue. This production was presented at many Kanakadasa Centenary Celebrations , where Prasanna Kasthuri and Mysore Nagaraj had taken the lead roles of Kanakadasa. The renowned M.S.Satyu did the lighting for one of the premier shows.

“ Yashodhara “

Masti Venkatesha Iyenger had authored an Opera titled ‘Yashodara’, which captivated Maya Rao’s artistic instincts to such levels that she decided to choreograph it as a Solo dance sequence. She decided to award the solo to Madhu Nataraj, her daughter, as a Diwali gift. The presentation was recorded by Praveen Rao, who also composed the music. The production became an instant success and popular with the audience. The art and skills of the powerful role of Yashodhara were exquisitely portrayed by Madhu Nataraj. This presentation was also performed in Canada where the audience went into raptures over her solo performance.

2000 – 2010 – Maya Rao in the new Millenium

Saraswat Parampara Pravah ”

In 2000 at the behest of Parama Poojya Shrimat Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji, Mathadipathi of Shri Chitrapur Math, Shirali, Maya Rao choreographed a dance- drama for the benefit of the Chitrapur Saraswat community to which she belonged, portraying the gift of the culture bestowed upon the Chitrapur Saraswat community by Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati in the form of a river had flowed down from the Himalayas in the North to several regions in the East and West, before disappearing from sight. However, the under-current of the river flowed in the veins of the Saraswats, which was nurtured by the Goddess, as the members of the community journeyed from one region to another in search of food, shelter and peace of mind in pursuit of their profession. Even to this day the community members are called “Saraswats” all over the world cherishing the name of Goddess Saraswati. The inaugural show was presented at the Canara Union in Bangalore and a special repeat performance of this presentation was made in the august presence of HH Shrimat Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji, at the same venue. In the year 2008, during the Ter-Centenary Celebrations of Shri Chitrapur Math, Shirali, the dance- drama was presented at Shirali in the divine and serene aura of revered Swamiji. This presentation was web-cast ‘live’ on the internet for the members of the community residing across the world. The performance was highly appreciated by the audience/viewers on the web.

“Dust of Braj”

The organizers of the Masti Adhyayana Peetha were planning to honour two Jnanapeeth Awardees –U.R.Anantamurthy from Karnataka and Indira Goswami from Assam, for which Maya Rao was requested to choreograph excerpts from their works. She chose one chapter from the autobiography of Indira Goswami titled ‘The Dust of Braj’. The theme related to the plight of the octracised widows of Mathura who were discarded by their relatives and the society, to compel them to take refuge in Brindavan, the land of Lord Krishna, assuming it to be ‘Braj Bhoomi’. The ballet was presented on more than two occasions and received appreciation from the audience. Maya Rao also selected a sequence from ‘Sri Tulsi’ written by U.R.Anantamurthy for the dance production titled ‘Thula Bhara’. Other productions such as Masti’s ‘Kamana Billu’ and ‘Yashodhara’, in addition to the above two ballets were presented to an appreciative audience at the Ravindra Kalakshetra in Bangalore.

“ Suvarana Karnataka “

On the occasion of the 50th year of the unification of the State of Karnataka in 2006, Vittal Murthy, Secretary for Information, Tourism, Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka, Bangalore, invited Maya Rao to present a dance-cum-music extravaganza portraying the glory of Karnataka and the progress made in various fields of activity in the State. The Ballet presentation opened with Pampa’s famous quote – “If I have to be born again, I want to be born only in this land”. Sequentially the last Maharaja of Mysore, Shri.Jaya Chamraja Wodeyar, the natural scenic beauty spots in the State, Silicon City, development of IT and BT technology, paintings and pictures of K.K.Hebbar, S.G.Vasudev and other artistes, sports achievement, et al were highlighted and portrayed in the presentation. At the inaugural programme excerpts from Chandrasekhar Kambar’s play ‘Jo Kumaraswamy’ was presented by Nagabharana on the stage. For the ballet production music was designed by Shankar Shanbhogue with inputs from Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma, Amit Heri and Praveen Rao. Over 50 shows of this presentation were made all over India, including at the ‘Vishwa Kannada Sammelan’ and the ‘Global Investors Meet’, considered as the highlight of the festivities. Shri.B.S.Yeddyurappa, then Chief Minister of Karnataka, was so impressed with the presentation made at the Global Investors Meet that he came up on the stage to congratulate all the artistes and announced that 15 more of these shows should be presented all over Karnataka to bring awareness of the heritage of Karnataka to the people of the State.

Bangalore University Doctorate

In 2006, Maya Rao was awarded the Honorary Doctorate Degree at the 41st Convocation of the Bangalore University, from Shri.T.N.Chaturvedi, Governor of Karnataka, under the Vice Chancellorship of Dr.M.S.Thimmappa. Other luminaries who were also awarded the Honorary Doctorate at this Convocation were Shri.S.K.Ramachander Rao (Writer), Vishnuvardhan (Cine artiste), V.Balu (Collage artist). The Award function was held at Bangalore in a grand manner.


Maya Rao established the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreograpy (NIKC) on 12th July 1987 at Bangalore, no sooner the Government of Karnataka confirmed the assurances given by its Chief Minister, Shri.Ramakrishna Hegde, by issuing an Official Order, reiterating sanction of the project. The Institute was inaugurated by Padma Vibhushan awardee Smt.Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, under the aegis of Bharatiya Natya Sangh, the Indian Theater Center, affiliated to the International Training Insitute of UNESCO. The Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography is the only one of its kind in India, and perhaps in Asia too, for imparting training in Choreography. A pioneering venture into the academic study of dance and choreography, the Institute has on its Board of Directors and Council many veteran artistes and theater personalities, who are luminaries in their respective fields. The Institute had been established in 1964 at Delhi, patterned by Maya Rao. In 1987 the Institute was shifted to Bangalore at the behest of Shri.Ramakrishna Hegde, former Chief Minister of Karnataka with financial support from the Government. The Institute is affiliated to the Bangalore University to accord B.A.Degree in Choreography and Kathak. Over the decade the Institute has imparted training to aspirants from different parts of India on State Academy Scholarships as well as Guest dancers and choreographers from USA, UK, USSR, CANADA, SOUTH AFRICA, CHINA and other countries under the Fellowships and Grants from their respective organizations. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) an organ of the Ministry of External Affairs has deputed foreign students to the Institute as well as appointed the graduates of the Institute at their centers abroad.

The Institute offers a course for 3 years Bachelor’s Degree in Choreography, besides a course for 1 year in Diploma in Choreography. Eligibility to join the courses needs basic knowledge in Dancing as a pre-requisite. However, a pass in Grade12/2nd Pre-University Course or equivalent qualification will suffice for admission in the Institute. The comprehensive syllabus includes History of Choreography, Art of Choreography, History of Arts, Aesthetics, Indian and Western, Natya Shastra, Mime and Movement, Stage design and lighting, Music design, Costume design, Pedagogy, Classical & Contemporary Technique, Indian Martial Arts, Folk Dance orientation, Art’s management, Choreography for Films. Dr.Maya Rao heads the Board of Studies as its Director. The faculty members comprise Madhu Natraj, Dr.B.V.Rajaram, Janardhan Raj Urs, Ramya Nagaraj, Ponnamma A.D., Sai Venkatesh. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture in the HRD, Government of India, Delhi, and Sangeeth Natak Akademi support the Institutes’ projects with financial assistance. Apart from the training section, the Institute has a performing unit – Natya STEM Dance Kampni – where the graduates of the Institute are engaged in presenting productions and dance ensembles under the direction of Maya Rao. The performing unit has presented performances in over 30 countries and won encomiums for the Institute. It has a large repertoire of over 50 productions varying from the mythological, historical to contemporary themes and have been performed extensively around India and in other countries world-wide. Madhu Nataraj, daughter of Maya Rao, heads the Natya STEM Dance Kampni, which is located in the same premises as the parent Institute.

2 0 1 1 . . . . .

The sad demise of Nataraj on 13th September 1997 at Bangalore, proved to be a huge devastating factor in the minds of Maya Rao and her daughter Maya Nataraj, leaving behind a trail of unforgettable and indelible memories in their personal/individual lives. Yet, through sheer dint of determination and self confidence, Maya Rao came out of the eddy of sorrowful memories of the loss of her husband and began devoting all her time, energies and life in promoting the art of Kathak dancing and choreography at the Institute. She also encouraged her daughter, Madhu Nataraj, to share the onerous responsibilities of managing the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography. Madhu has responded to her mother’s expectation and aspirations in the most unselfish demeanour, filling up the vacuum in the personal life of Maya Rao. Maya Rao opines that Madhu is her future hope in the realization of her dreams and aspirations which she had nurtured from her childhood days. In retrospection over her life, Maya Rao admits – “where does life go from here? I wish my children – and there are so many – much happiness in whatever they pursue. I am grateful to God for having given me most meaningful years, even if they were full of struggle. Through all the highs and lows, I never forgot the pursuit of something higher than I. It was dance that gave direction, a sense of purpose and some sense of sharing with others“.

At the ripe and matured age of 84, Maya Rao feels her life as fulfilled, although she realizes that she has miles to go … before she sleeps.


Dr.Maya Rao – Awards and Honours bestowed during her career in Kathak Dancing and Choreography

1968 – The Sangeet Nritya Academy (formerly known as Mysore State Academy) Award for Dance awarded by the Govt.of Mysore, in Bangalore.

1985 – Delhi State Sahitya Kala Parishat Award in New Delhi

1986 - Rajyotsava Award for spreading awareness of Indian Dance and Culture in Karnataka State awarded by the Govt.of Karnataka, in Bangalore.

1989 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award - President’s Award for yeoman service rendered in the field of Choreography from the Government of India, awarded by Shri. R.Venkataraman, President of India, in New Delhi.

1999 – Emeritus Fellowship Award for Eminence in Dance from the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, New Delhi

2000 ‘ Shantala ‘ Award – Karataka State’s most coveted Award for Excellence in Art, awarded by The Government of Karnataka at Bangalore.

2005 Honorary Doctorate Award bestowed by the Bangalore University

2012 – ‘Purandara’ Award from Indiranagar Sangeet Sabha, Bangalore, awarded in January 2012

2012 - ‘Tagore Akademi Ratna’ Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (Govt.of India)

2012 - Tagore Sanman Ratna Award’ – (Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship) – to be conferred by the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in April 2012

In addition to the above Central and State Government Awards, Dr.Maya Rao has also been the recipient of the following Awards from Non-Government Organisations :

1) Distinguished “Konkani Award” conferred by T.M.A. PAI Foundation, Manipal, Karnataka.

2) Natya Kalaratna Award from Gayana Samaj, Bangalore

3) Nritya Vilas Award from Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai

4) Distinguished “Guru” Award from The Kannada Kootas in USA in the year 1977


Nandakumar Hattiangadi,


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'(Inputs sourced from the Archives of Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, Bangalore)