Information and Knowledge

Why Sitara Devi Is Known As India’s ‘Empress of Dance’?

They say ‘Dance like no one’s watching’. But, if women like Sitara Devi had followed that, we’d never have known dance as it is today. Who is Sitara Devi? For the uninitiated, she was an eminent Indian Kathak dancer. Such was her talent and caliber, she taught the likes of Madhubala, Rekha, Mala Sinha, and Kajol. In an era when dance was considered to be a lowly profession, she played a pivotal in bringing in and tightening the reins of one of the major dance forms in India.

Classical dance forms like Kathak have taken a backseat in today’s hip-hop and Bollywood style era. However, we cannot forget that our roots lie in the art forms and those who presented it with passion. Let’s get to know the name and face behind India’s revolutionary dancer in a better way.


Great dancer but not a great education

Due to some unavoidable circumstances, she couldn’t continue schooling beyond basic primary education. However, her passion for dance helped her land in Bombay.


sitara devi young, Sitara Devi


All in the genes

Sitara Devi had art in her genes. Her father was very well versed in Natya Shastra and he pushed her towards the basics of Kathak- tandav and lasya. In fact, it was her father who was her guru too.


sitara devi with father, Sitara Devi


First audience

It seems she was not one to believe in baby steps, because her first ever performance included an audience with likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Sir Cowasji Jehangir.


Sitara Devi first audience,Sitara Devi


Strong views

In an interview, she once said, ‘I gave more importance to the support I get from the public. And my greatest award was when Rabindranath Tagore called me the Naritya Samragini (Queen Of Dance).’ For someone from that era, that’s very empowering!


Sitara-Devi-intrview, Sitara Devi


Real name

She was born in Kolkata on November 8, 1920, into a Vaishnavite family and was named Dhanalakshmi. She got the name Sitara after becoming a prominent name in Bollywood.

Real name of Sitara Devi, Sitara Devi


Unhappy personal life

In real life, Sitara Devi was unlucky in love. She got married thrice but all of them ended bitterly. She came to accept that her only true love and passion was her dance.


Sitara Devi first love dance, SItaraDevi


Started early

She gave her first solo performance at the mere age of ten. Her professional life too took off quite early. Sitara Devi performed her first dance in a movie at the age of twelve and continued with a number of others like Nagina, Roti Vatan, and Anjali.


Sitara Devi in movies, Sitara Devi



Although Sitara Devi is no longer with us, her children Ranjit Barot and  Jayanti Mala are her true legacy. Ranjit is a music composer and a  longtime associate of A. R. Rahman. Jayanti herself is also quite an accomplished Kathak dancer, just like her mother.


Sitara devi and Jayantimala, Sitara Devi


(originally written for

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