Google Doodle on Friday celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of Mrinalini Sarabhai, the renowned Indian classical dancer. The doodle depicts Sarabhai with her signature parasol standing in the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts auditorium, the academy which she found with her husband in 1949. Her students are seen dancing on the stage.
Sarabhai was born in Kerala on May 11, 1918 to S Swaminathan and A V Ammakutty. Her father was a lawyer at the Madras High Court while her mother was a social worker. Sarabhai’s mother, better known as Ammu Swaminathan was a freedom fighter. Ammukutty was born in an aristocratic Nair family known as the ‘Vadakkath’ family of Anakkara in Kerala.
In 1942, Mrinalini married notable physicist Dr Vikram Sarabhai who is considered to be the Father of the Indian Space Program. She has two children, Mallika and Kartikeya.
Sarabhai had started training at a fairly young age, studying both the classical dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kathakali. She is the youngest of three children. She learnt Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of legendary Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and Kathakali under Guru Thakazhi Kunchu Kurup. She spent her childhood in Switzerland, there she received lessons in the Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which is an approach to learning and experiencing music through movement.
Besides performing solo in India and other venues in the world, she has choreographed more than three hundred dance dramas, she also wrote many novels, poetry, plays and stories for children.
Mrinalini’s older sister Lakshmi Sehgal was the commander-in-chief of Rani of Jhansi regiment which was an all women combat regiment of the Indian National Army. It was formed by Subhash Chandra Bose in a bid to take down the British colonial rule in India with the help of Japan. She also had an older brother Govind Swaminathan, who was a former attorney general of the state of Madras.
Mrinalini was awarded the Padma Shri in 1965 and Padma Bhushan in 1992. She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship New Delhi in 1994 and she was the first recipient of the state annual award from the Government of Kerala, Nishagandhi Puraskaram, which was presented to her in 2013.
She died at the age of 97 in January 2016.