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Guru Narmada is no more

March 31, 2007

Senior dance guru Guru Narmada passed away on 30th Friday, 2007, due to heart attack on the way to the hospital. She was 65 year old (22 September 1942 to 30 March 2007).

Guru Narmada has all her life contributed immensely to dance and students of dance with her generous giving and sharing of all her knowledge of dance.

Every successful artist in Bangalore would have learnt dance from Guru Narmada at some point or the other in their dancing career. A mother figure to all her students, they describe Guru Narmada as a great teacher and a good friend and guide. Caring, loving, sharing and giving are the qualities she possessed, making her close to each one’s heart.
She has trained some of the fine artists like Lakshmi Gopalswamy, Manju Bhargavi, Sathyanarayan Raju, Nirupama Rajendra, Malathi Iyengar, Praveen, Anuradha Vikranth….

Guru Narmada was recently awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi award by the President of India for her contribution to the field of dance. She has been awarded the Shanthala Award by the Government of Karnataka. Completing 25 years of teaching, Guru Narmada was one of the most senior dance gurus of Bangalore, who had her initial training from the late V S Kaushik, and training in the Tanjore style of Bharatanatyam from Guru K P Kittappa Pillai of Thanjavur for 18 years.

She began her dance school Shakuntala Nruthyalyaa (in memory of her mother) at Bangalore in 1978 where she has trained many students. Inspiring in her students many rich, creative ways of using a particular adavu without sacrificing classicism is a notable factor in Guru Narmada’s teaching. She has encouraged her students to retain their
individuality and creative freedom within the classical framework.

The guru has also been honored with the Karnataka Sangeetha Nruthya Academy Award, the Shanthala Arts Academy Award, the Best Teacher award from the Music Academy, Chennai, Karnataka Rajyotsava Award and the Bestow Award from the Karnataka Cultural Association, California.

Those who want to pay their respects could visit her house on Tuesday April 3, 2007
Her residence: 397, 1st Cross, 2nd Block, 3rd Stage, Banashankari, Bangalore 85.

- Anuradha Vikranth, Bangalore
e-mail: info@drishtimag.com

Anuradha Vikranth is the director of Drishti Dance Ensemble and editor of dance magazine Drishti.



Our dearest Bharatanatyam Guru Narmada aunty passed away last night on 30th March 2007. How can we forget her loving nature, her great choreographies...her nattuvangam…her humour...her most adorable sharing nature.

She never held anything back and completely gave away her art to her students. She spoke to us last week explaining about the Award she received from the President of India...her visit to Ganga and she said her life was done. She claimed that the best part of her life was the time she spent with her students.

It is unbelievable that she is no more.
Our hearts cry out for the loss of such a wonderful human being.
Please join us in praying for her soul to rest in peace.

-Nirupama & Rajendra, Bangalore
e-mail: nirupamarajendra@gmail.com

Nirupama and Rajendra are directors of Abhinava Dance Company in Bangalore.



I am saddened to share with you that our guru Narmada passed away Friday evening March 30th in Bangalore as a result of massive heart failure. She was 64 years old. Guru Narmada, a prime disciple of Kittappa Pillai (descendant of Tanjore Quartet) was a recipient of numerous state and national awards. She recently received the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award on March 2, 2007 from President Abdul Kalam in New Delhi. She called me a fortnight ago, and informed me the details of the festivities with great joy and excitement. She also mentioned that some of her students accompanied her to visit the sacred sites, Rishikesh and Haridhwar, and that she had Prokshanam from the river Ganges.

Guru Narmada came into my life at a time when I had no meaningful direction or pursuit. Her generosity and sense of humor are some of the wonderful memories that we students cherish. She leaves behind a wonderful artistic legacy, and because of her unconditional giving, many of us have found a vocation and a window into the divine process of creation. Learning from her not only gave us a strong technique and foundation in classical dance, but also a path towards spirituality, etiquette, and refinement.

Guru Narmada, an intelligent teacher, always encouraged her disciples to retain dignity, individuality, and creative freedom within the classical guidelines.

Guru Narmada leaves behind a son who is a medical doctor in San Bernardino, California, brothers and sisters in India, and numerous students all over the world.

- Malathi Iyengar, California
e-mail: msiyengar@yahoo.com

Malathi Iyengar is the director of Rangoli Foundation for Art and Culture in California.


The loss of guru Narmada is devastating. It is so wonderful that she was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award just a few days ago. She was truly gracious and totally un-money minded. What a privilege for me that I managed to learn and perform a bit of her choreography (a Nataraja varnam) which I did for the Royal Academy and Royal Asiatic events which have been kindly reviewed by Jon Stock (Editor, Weekend Telegraph, London in Week magazine) related to Royal Academy Chola exhibition. It is as much a tribute to her (Narmada) as well apart from Nirupama Raghavan, astrophysicist and former director of the Nehru Planetarium (who had cancer)... It was in retrospect an emotionally very difficult tour with them both being so ill.

What a cosmic dance....

- Sharada Srinivasan
e-mail: sharasri@gmail.com

Sharada Srinivasan is a Bharatanatyam dancer and research scientist in Archaemetallurgy, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.


Guru Narmada's passing has been a devastating news for many dance lovers and in particular the hundreds of students of hers. I am blessed to be one of those students. I learnt so much of Bharatanatyam from her, and more than that just watching her was inspirational. I was doubly touched to hear from her near and dear ones that there was one thing she very badly wanted to do, and that is visit us in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had hosted her twice here and had her conduct workshops. Those were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I know of very few people that have had to face as many adversities in life, even from a very young age. She fought them bravely and never whined or complained about it. The one thing that stood out about her was her tremendous sense of humour, and her enormous capacity for hard work, and an impeccable work ethic. What impressed me most was how willingly and gladly she would teach students at any skill levels. I have seen people half her age and with half her stature fuss about teaching beginners. She would not bring ego into her work. Her frail health made her suffer but never stopped her from doing what she loved to do.

She has one son who is now settled in California, with his adorable son. But there are several others, particularly her senior students, whom she treated as her own children. When I called her, in New Delhi, on March 3, to congratulate her on the National Sangeeta Natak Akademi Award, her first statement was, "My next travel will be to Raleigh to see my grandchildren," referring to my children. I am devastated at her passing and saddened that her one personal wish (and mine) has been left unfulfilled. I have made a name for myself here and she was a big reason for that. It is time for us to celebrate her life and memories that have enriched several other lives in such an exemplary manner.

- Supriya Desai, North Carolina
e-mail: supriyades@yahoo.com

Supriya Desai is the artistic director of Payal Dance Academy in the Triangle Area of North Carolina and a senior student of Guru Narmada Rao.