Transgender dancer and activist Narthaki Nataraj honored with a Padma Shri

narthaki Nataraj
Narthaki Nataraj Photos
narthaki Nataraj
Narthaki Nataraj Photos

Republic Day, 26th of January, Narthaki Nataraj was bestowed the Padma Shri, becoming the first transgender person to be honored with one of Inda’s highest civilian award.

Nataraj was in Thiruvananthapuram, performing in the Nishagandhi Nritholsav, while the declaration of the award came.

“I have received the message from the tourism department that I am awarded ‘Padma Shri, while I have been performing in the ‘Nishagandhi’ as part of the ‘Nritholsav’.

“It is a moment to rejoice. I consider this as the reward for my struggles in life, hard work, determination and self-respect,”  said Nataraj while talking to the media.

“There are times that I struggled to get a room to stay or avail a bank loan. People were hesitant to help people like me. I have been through all these hardships and now I am happy that we are getting acceptance and recognition,” she added.

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Narthaki Nataraj is a Bharatanatyam exponent and has become the face of the Thanjavur-based Nayaki Bhava tradition all over the world.

Padma Awards were instituted in 1954 to be awarded to citizens of India in recognition of their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity including the arts, education, industry, literature, science, sports, medicine, social service and public affairs

Republic Day honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.

The Path.

Narthaki was born in the third gender in a well to do family near Madurai.  She was subject to social ridicule and rejection. However, her passion for dance took her to Shri K P Kittappa Pillai who lived in Tanjore. He accepted her as his disciple and she stayed in his house and trained under him for 14 years. She also worked with him as an assistant in Tanjore Tamil University. Narthaki currently lives in Chennai and travels extensively within and outside India preserving and propagating the pristine purity of a tradition that is many centuries old.

Narthaki has performed at all leading festivals in India, USA, UK and Europe. In 2011, she became the first transgender person to receive the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award by then President Pranab Mukherjee and a Senior Fellowship from Department of Culture, Government of India.

The divine transgender state.

According to Indian culture, the art of dance is aimed at experiencing divinity. Spiritual pursuits through performing arts have been underlined with deep religious sanctity. The search of the Soul – Jeevatma – for the Supreme – Paramatma – is the underlying current that runs through the entire process of self-realization in Indian art and culture.

The basic approach of our spiritual search revolves around the concept of a single supreme force, that is neither male or female, although this ultimate power is worshipped as Ardhanari in Saivism and Vishnu as the Sole supreme male according to Vaishnavism. In the performing arts, particularly in Indian classical dance traditions, this is represented as Heroine – Nayika or Nayaki and Hero – Nayaka – inter-relationship and its emotional manifestations ranging from devotion – Bhakthi – to romance – Shringara – to eroticism. This is also known as Nayika or Nayaki Bhava, Madhura Bhakthi, Madhurya Bhakthi or a “divine transgender state”

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


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