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Renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Saroja Vaidyanathan passed away at her home early on Thursday, after bravely battling cancer. She had celebrated her 86th birthday on September 19. Let’s take a moment to remember her remarkable journey.
Saroja Vaidyanathan was not just a dancer but also a choreographer and guru, known for her expertise in Bharatanatyam. The Government of India honored her with the Padma Shri in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013 for her contributions to the art form.
Born in Bellary, Karnataka, in 1937, Saroja began her Bharatanatyam training at Saraswati Gana Nilayam in Chennai. Later, she studied under the guidance of guru Kattumannar Muthukumaran Pillai in Thanjavur.
Interestingly, both of Saroja’s parents were accomplished authors. Her mother, Kanakam Dharmarajan, specialized in Tamil detective fiction.
Saroja was married to Vaidyanathan, an IAS officer in the Bihar cadre. The couple had a son named Kamesh, and their daughter-in-law, Rama Vaidyanathan, achieved international recognition as a Bharatanatyam artist.
Continuing the family legacy, Saroja’s granddaughter, Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel, also made a name for herself as a sought-after Indian classical dancer.
Saroja’s talents extended beyond dance; she studied Carnatic music under Professor P. Sambamoorthy at Madras University and earned a D.Litt in dance from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh.
She authored several books on Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music, including notable works like “The Classical Dances of India,” “Bharatanatyam – An In-Depth Study,” “Carnataka Sangeetham,” and “The Science of Bharatanatyam.”
Initially, Saroja had given up performing in public after her marriage due to conservative reactions. Instead, she dedicated herself to teaching dance to children at her home. However, in 1972, following her husband’s transfer to Delhi, she founded the Ganesa Natyalaya in 1974.
The Natyalaya found support from well-wishers and sponsors, eventually leading to the construction of its building in the Qutub Institutional Area in 1988.
Her fans will always remember Saroja Vaidyanathan’s enduring passion for Bharatanatyam and her commitment to nurturing young talents.