NEW DELHI: Leading scholar of Indian classical dance, art and art history Kapila Vatsyayan passed away at her home in Delhi. She was 92.
A former Rajya Sabha MP and lifetime trustee of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Vatsyayan was the chairperson of the Asia Project at the India International Centre. During her active professional career spanning over decades, she also served as the Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Government of India.
Groomed by freedom fighter Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay and theosophist-dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale, she was instrumental in setting up of several art and culture institutes, including the IIC.
Born to Satyawati Malik and Ram Lal in Delhi on December 25, 1928, Vatsyayan was fiercely independent from the beginning. She graduated in English Literature from Delhi University and later did her MA in Education from University of Michigan, followed it with a Ph.D from Banaras Hindu University.
In 1956, she got married to Hindi author-poet S H Vatsyayan ‘Ajneya’ but the couple separated in 1969. Vatsyayan was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (1970) and Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship (1995).
In 2011, she was bestowed with Padma Vibhushan. Vatsyayan was a lover of Indian classical art forms who welcomed experimentation, but only which didn’t dilute the innate essence of indigenous art forms.
In her own words: To be innovative is imperative for traditions to renew, but inventiveness needs to happen within the framework of basic principles defining each dance.
“She was a great mentor and took great interest in me. When I was selected for Indian Audit & Accounts Service, she advised me to not accept a deputation to any ministry remotely connected with culture. She said, ‘If you do so, people will attribute other motives.’ I followed this all through my career,” says noted Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan.
Learnt classical dance from greats
Vatsyayan learned Kathak from Pt Achhan Maharaj, and Manipuri dance from Guru Amobi Singh. She then learnt Odissi (from Guru Surendranath Jena), Bharatanatyam (from Gurus Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and Lalitha, a disciple of Rukmini Devi).