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After India has accepted the LGBTQ community with all of the heart, Narthaki Nataraj, a Bharatnatyam dancer, has become the first Indian transgender to win the honourable Padma Shri Award.
The 54 years old dancer is a trans activist coming from Madurai and trained in Tanjavore tradition of Nayaki Bhava style. Narthaki was born on a male in July 1964 in Tamil Nadu. At an early age, she decided to learn Bharatanatyam, a dance form. At the age of 12, she went away from parents after recognizing her personality and not being accepted by society. She took the help of a friend named Shakti.
Since her childhood, Narthaki was in a constant search of a dance guru and finally met the legendary Thanjavar Kittappa Pillai and spent 15 years with her Guru learning Bharatanatyam along with her friend Shakti. Narthaki has also assisted her Guru in Tamil Nadu at Tanjore Tamil University.
Taking a further step ahead, Narthaki Nataraj started a dance school in Tamil Nadu where she teaches Bharatanatyam named Velliamballam School of Dance that has branches in the United States of America, United Kingdom, and Norway. She has been recognized for her work and research in this field of dance performances around the world. Narthaki is an inspiration icon not only for the LGBTQ community but for the world.
Recalling her journey with her Guru, Narthaki says, “I trained under him for 15 years. I was also a demonstration artist for the dance pieces he described in his research at the Thanjavur Tamil University. The number of performances of mine certainly increased, but acceptance initially did not.”
She has been felicitated with the Kalaimamani award, the highest honour of the Tamil Nadu government and has also been the recipient of the Nritya Choodamani of the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 2009. Even the story of her life has been there in TN school books.
Breaking the stereotypes of gender equality, she has entertained her viewers with her amazing dance moves and expressions. Recently, it’s been announced that she would become the first trans to receive the country’s highest civilian awards, Padma Shri for her contribution in her field.
A while ago, she became the first transgender to receive the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award by then President Pranab Mukherjee and a Senior Fellowship from Department of Culture, Government of India.