BANGALORE: Veteran Kathak artiste, choreographer and Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner Maya Rao (86) passed away following a massive cardiac arrest on Sunday night.
Maya Rao, popularly known as Maya Di, is survived by her daughter Madhu Nataraj, also a well-known Kathak dancer and choreographer and thousands of her students all over the world.
She was brought to M S Ramaiah Hospital late night on Sunday after she complained of backache and breathlessness.
She had a massive cardiac arrest when the doctors were examining her and passed away at around 12.15 am.
According to Dr Naresh Shetty, Medical Director, M S Ramaiah Hospital, Maya Rao was rushed to an emergency ward at 11.30 pm on Sunday. Within few minutes, she had a massive cardia arrest and died, he added.
Maya Rao was a recipient of the prestigious Shantala (2000) and Karnataka Rajyotsava awards (1986).
Her body was kept at Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, Malleswaram. She was the director of the institute.
Hundreds of her students paid their last respects to her. Actors Ananth Nag, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, dancer-turned-actor Sridhar, filmmaker T S Nagabharana and Principal Secretary to Kannada and Culture Shalini Rajneesh were among those who paid tributes to the veteran danseuse.
Sridhar said Maya Rao showed people that art can be taken up as a profession too.
“She was responsible for upholding dance and art at an international level. Maya Rao has taught Kathak to at least three generations,” he said.Recalling childhood memories, 85-year-old social activist Vimala Rangachar said, “We (Maya Rao and she) knew each other for the past eight decades. We studied together till college. Maya had a passion for dance from a very young age.”
“We both were born in orthodox families where girls were not allowed to dance. But later, her father allowed her to learn Kathak after watching dancer Udayshankar’s (Pandit Ravishankar’s brother) performance. When she started learning, not many knew Kathak in Bangalore. She was the first woman choreographer in Kathak in the city,” she said.
Art researcher Vijay said Maya Rao learnt Kathak from Guru Sunder Prasad of Jaipur Gharana and Guru Shambhu Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana at National Institute of Kathak Dance in Delhi.
“She was the only Indian with a Postgraduate certificate in Choreography from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). After returning from there, she started Natya Institute of Choreography at Delhi. It was the then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde’s appeal which made her shift her base back to Bangalore in 1987,” Vijay said.
“Maya has the credit of choreographing Kuvempu’s Ramayana Darshanam for the first time which was praised by the poet himself,” he said.
She was the first dancer to receive the Karnataka State Sangeet Nritya Academy award.
Noted danseuse Nandini Mehta, who was a student of Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography when it started at Malleswaram in 1987, said, “She was a generous teacher and gave everything she had in terms of knowledge to her students. She not only taught us Kathak, but we learnt the discipline, how to present ourselves among many other things. I was fortunate enough to perform with her and she was particular about her rehearsals.”