Know About These Major Contributions Made by Mrinalini Sarabhai

Know About These Major Contributions Made by Mrinalini Sarabhai

When the little 5-year-old girl declared before her parents that she wanted to become a dancer little did Dr. Swaminathan, a well-known barrister from Madras High Court and Ammu Swaminathan an MP and social worker from Kerala know that the name of their daughter would one day claim its position among the top dance exponents of India.

Mrinalini Sarabhai was one of those brightest stars in the world of Indian dance forms and music, which fell in the year 2016 but its glory has remained eternal. Mrinalini Sarabhai was the epitome of elegance and creativity, and she was an extraordinary performer whose mesmerizing presence used to spellbound the dance enthusiasts. Her performance depicted themes which were quite unimaginable to be portrayed by women back in the 1940s. Besides being a famous personality herself Mrinalini Sarabhai was married to Vikram Sarabhai who was a renowned scientist. However, she never let her husband’s fame overshadow her talent and let herself dazzle so brightly that it almost outshined everything else. She belonged to a very disciplined and cultured background and was never denied having a very privileged childhood which was quite progressive in every sense of the word and encouraged her in every step of her life.

Being a dancer back then did not get her heart-warming responses everywhere. After her marriage to Vikram Sarabhai, she was stigmatized and labelled as a devadasi by society that even expressed lament over the fate of her established husband. In spite of all these trials and tribulations, nothing could stop Mrinalini Sarabhai from becoming a pioneer of Indian classical dance and bringing the dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kathakali to the forefront of society.

The major contributions that Mrinalini Sarabhai made during her lifetime which continue to resonate with the world of Indian classical dance are as follows:

Her establishment of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts:

Her major contribution is the foundation of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in the year 1949. This Academy currently has courses on Indian classical dance forms like Bharatnatyam, music such as Indian classical vocal, violin, flute, mridangam, and even the art of puppetry. Along with that, the art of kalaripayattu is also taught in this academy. What helped this academy of Sarabhai gain prominence is its ambition of ushering in social change by using dance as a mode of expression and voice for the voiceless. By deviating from the conventional spiritual manifestation of the dance form of Bharatnatyam, Mrinalini decided to use the dance form to express the terrors of dowry-driven violence. Besides that, some of the departments of this academy established by Mrinalini Sarabhai also contribute to different kinds of social welfare activities like women’s empowerment, public health, eradication of gender disparities, and education by using the mediums of puppet shows, street performances, and theatrical shows. Their range of portrayals starts from violence against women to corruption and injustice on mankind and so on.

Establishing her identity as a path-breaking role model for posterity:

Mrinalini Sarabhai did not just break the barriers of acceptance within her hometown but also the entire country when she became the ideal role model who all the young girls started following with the vision of emancipation and freedom of choice. Today, it is because of Mrinalini Sarabhai that people can now think of dance forms as not just some physical movements to music, but rather expressions of some of the deepest ideas in the heart and mind projected in the most graceful and expressive ways. Browse to know more on Mrinalini Sarabhai.

When Mrinalini Sarabhai had to travel to different countries in Europe, performing stage shows and promoting Indian dance forms all over the world, she always took her son along with her which symbolised the fact that a woman can pursue her passion and make a successful career out of it as well as be the caregiving and responsible mother at the same time. She was fearless to set herself apart from the traditional definition assigned to a woman in India; she represented her country as an individual while being very present in the lives of her children, undetachable from the members of her family regardless of anything. She redefined what makes a woman, becoming a path breaker who inspired several young women in the country and promoted the idea that a woman can be successful at work and yet be a doting mother, thereby juggling two hats successfully.

Fighting effectively against the social ills:

Not only was Mrinalini Sarabhai an exceptional dancer but also an embodiment of social justice. She made sure that each of her dance performances conveyed some message to society at large to spread awareness about the prevalent social evils. Her unwavering determination exhibited through her performances portrayed social ills, including in the 1960s; her brilliant storytelling and narration of the felt experiences of the victims of social evils were evidence of her venturesome personality, something that was unexpected from women during those times. Her intrepid enactment of social issues like rape, discrimination, and abuse of the Adivasi community via her dance performances became the voice to spread social awareness encouraging people to talk about these in the public domain. It can be said that Mrinalini Sarabhai found a voice in her dancing skills to protest against the social evils and carved out messages to be sent out to the population at large making them conscious of these social evils.

Contributions as an art enthusiast:

Mrinalini Sarabhai was the chairperson of the Gujarat State Handicrafts and Handloom Development Corporation Limited. The platform helped channel her love for indigenous textiles and handicrafts. Whenever she used to perform at her dance recitals, not only did she depict the ailments of the society in a larger-than-life process, but also promoted the use of indigenous handicrafts and textiles to a wider market. To encourage the use of these traditional textiles she even used them as her stage props during her shows.

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