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U S Krishna Rao (1912 – 2005)
- Compiled by Lalitha Venkat


March 8, 2005

Bharatanatyam guru Ubhayakar Shivaram Krishna Rao passed away at 8:38am in Bangalore on March 6, 2005. He was 92 and is survived by two sons. U S Krishna Rao was a dancer, choreographer, renowned teacher and author of books on dance in English and Kannada.

Krishna Rao was born on 31 December 1912 in Mallapura, North Kanara District of Karnataka State and grew up in Bangalore. He completed his M.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Mysore and was a lecturer for many years. He was also captain of the Bangalore United Cricket Club. A pioneer in the Mysore school of Bharatanatyam, he started learning from Guru Kolar Puttappa (1939-40) and Kathakali from Guru Kunju Kurup (1941-42). In 1943, Krishna Rao and his wife Chandrabhaga Devi underwent extensive training under Pandanallur Meenakshisundaram Pillai in Tanjavur. It was unheard of those days for a Brahmin male or female to pursue Bharatanatyam and they were virtually ostracized by the Konkani society. Surmounting all difficulties, they went on to become one of the most eminent dancing couples in the field of Indian classical dance.

The duo did a lot to promote and propagate Bharatanatyam. They started their school Maha Maya in 1942 in Bangalore and their disciples are scattered all over the world today. One of their pioneering innovations was giving lecture-demonstrations on dance, even as early as 1940 in Mysore. These highly educational sessions attracted a lot of male and female students. Krishna Rao was appointed as the honorary Professor of Dance in Bangalore University from 1973 to 1977 while his wife was Professor of Dance at the Dance School of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan from1971 to1985.

Krishna Rao choreographed spectacular dance-dramas like The Temptation of Buddha, Rani Shantala, Geeta Govinda and Kama Dahana. They performed extensively in India and abroad and raised lots of funds through their performances for various causes.
Krishna Rao was not only a good dancer, but an accomplished musician too. He could play a number of instruments including the harmonium, flute and tabla. He trained many vocalists and instrumentalists for dance.

Krishna Rao’s first book was written in Kannada, ‘Adhunika Bharatadalli Nrityakale’ –Art of Dance in Modern India. In 1980, he co-authored ‘Nritya Kale’ (Art of Dance) with Chandrabhaga Devi. A standard reference for both dance teachers and students, ‘A Dictionary of Bharata Natya’ published in 1980 and ‘A Panorama of Indian Dances’ (1993) are very well known works. ‘Bharata Natya Nighantu’ in Kannada meaning ‘Bharatnatya Dictionary’ was released in 1994. He has written on arts and artists for the Kannada Encyclopedia and his articles have been published in many leading journals.

Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi received many awards like the Rajyotsava Award, Shantala Award, Karnataka Nritya Kala Parishat and Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award. Krishna Rao received the E Krishna Iyer Medal for 2002 from The Sruti Foundation.