Kalakshetra Foundation

Coordinates: 12°59′17″N 80°15′54″E / 12.9881°N 80.26500°E / 12.9881; 80.26500
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Kalakshetra Foundation
Coordinates12°59′17″N 80°15′54″E / 12.9881°N 80.26500°E / 12.9881; 80.26500
EstablishedJanuary 1936
FounderRukmini Devi Arundale
ChairpersonS. Ramadorai (2020–present)[1]
DirectorRevathi Ramachandran (2018–October 2023)[2]

Kalakshetra Foundation, formerly simply Kalakshetra,[3] is an arts and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art and crafts, especially in the field of Bharatanatyam dance and Gandharvaveda music. Based in Chennai, India, the academy was founded in January 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale and her husband George Arundale. Under Arundale's guidance, the institution achieved national and international recognition for its unique style and perfectionism. In 1962, Kalakshetra moved to a new campus in Besant Nagar, Chennai, occupying 40 hectares (99 acres) of land.[4]

In January 1994, an Act of the Parliament of India recognised the Kalakshetra Foundation as an "Institute of National Importance."[5][6] The current Chairman of Kalakshetra is S. Ramadorai[7] and the current director is Revathi Ramachandran.[8]


Rukmini Devi Arundale, founder of Kalakshetra
A music classroom at Kalakshetra

Kalakshetra, later known as the Kalakshetra Foundation, was established by Rukmini Devi Arundale, along with her husband, George Arundale, a well-known theosophist, in Adyar, Chennai, in 1936. She invited not only the best students but also noted teachers, musicians and artists to be a part of this institution.[9] In 1944, the University of Madras granted its affiliation for conducting diploma courses in Music, Dance and Painting & Crafts.

Year-long celebrations, including lectures, seminars and festivals marked her 100th birth anniversary, on 29 February 2004, at Kalakshetra and elsewhere in many parts of the world.[10] Also on 29 February, a photo exhibition on her life opened at the Lalit Kala Gallery in New Delhi, and President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam released a photo-biography, written and compiled by Sunil Kothari, with a foreword by former president Ramaswamy Venkataraman.[11][12][13] In 2016, marking its 80th year, the Kalakshetra Foundation held a 'Remembering Rukmini Devi’ festival of music and dance.[14]

Kalakshetra style[edit]

Having studied the Pandanallur style for three years, in 1936 Rukmini Devi Arundale started working on developing her own, Kalakshetra, style of Bharatanatyam. She introduced group performances and staged various Bharatanatyam-based ballets.

Bharatanatyam performance at Kalakshetra, during visit of Hillary Clinton, 2011

The Kalakshetra style is noted for its angular, straight, ballet-like kinesthetics, and its avoidance of Recakas and of the uninhibited throw (Ksepa) of the limbs.[citation needed]

According to Sankara Menon (1907–2007), who was her associate from Kalakshetra's beginnings,[15] Rukmini Devi raised Bharatanatyam to a puritan art form, divorced from its recently controversial past by "removing objectionable elements" (mostly, the Sringara, certain emotional elements evocative of the erotic, such as hip, neck, lip and chest movements) from the Pandanallur style, which was publicly criticized by Indian dancer Tanjore Balasaraswati (1918–1984) and other representatives of Tamil Nadu's traditional Isai Velalar culture. Love outside parameters considered "chaste" was not to be portrayed. Balasaraswati said that "the effort to purify Bharatanatyam through the introduction of novel ideas is like putting a gloss on burnished gold or painting the lotus". Lawyer and classical artist E. Krishna Iyer (1897–1968) said about Rukmini Devi, "There is no need to say that before she entered the field, the art was dead and gone or that it saw a renaissance only when she started to dance or that she created anything new that was not there before".


In December 2022, allegations of sexual abuse in the campus began to surface after former director Leela Samson wrote a social media post accusing a teacher of harassing and molesting students, but hadn't specified the name of the teacher. In the following months, over a hundred students of Kalakshetra Foundation's Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts accused senior faculty member, Hari Padman, of sexual harassment. The accusations spanned a number of years. Padman was exonerated following an internal investigation, and Kalakshetra Foundation issued a gag order preventing students and staff from discussing the allegations.[16] On 21 March 2023, the National Commission for Women began investigating the allegations,[17] but closed the investigation shortly, after a victim denied any sexual harassment during an enquiry.[18] On 30 March, the students began protests against the inaction of the Kalakshetra authorities, by walking out of a routine morning prayer when Padman walked in.[19] The protests prompted a response from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin,[20] after which an FIR was registered against Padman by the Tamil Nadu police. The Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women also launched an investigation and received over 90 written complaints regarding various issues faced by the students of the foundation. Padman was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police on 3 April 2023.[21] In response, Padman's wife Divya Hari Padman filed a counter complaint against the victim and two teachers working in the institute.[22] Amidst the sexual harassment allegations, students also raised complaints about mismanagement by the foundation director Revathi Ramachandran, referring to the coverup of a food poisoning outbreak in November 2021.[23]


Office of Kalakshetra Academy at Besant Nagar
  • Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts[24]
  • Rukmini Devi Museum
  • Koothambalam (Kalakshetra theatre)
  • Craft Education and Research Centre (including the weaving department, the Kalamkari natural dye printing and the painting unit)

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable alumni include Radha Burnier, Amala Akkineni, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Sanjukta Panigrahi, C.V. Chandrasekhar, Dhananjayans, Adyar K. Lakshman, Jayashree Narayanan, Kalakshetra Vilasini, Leela Samson,[25] Satyavati Motiram Sirsat, Jaya Thyagarajan, Devoleena Bhattacharjee, and Ananda Shankar Jayant.[26]


  1. ^ "Ex-CEC Gopalaswami new chairman of Kalakshetra Foundation". The Hindu. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Revathi Ramachandran to be Kalakshetra director". The Hindu. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  3. ^ "About Kalakshetra / History". Kalakshetra Foundation. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Kalashethra", The New York Times, retrieved 3 December 2011
  5. ^ Kalakshetra Foundation Act 1993 Archived 2010-02-15 at the Wayback Machine, Ministry of Law And Justice.
  6. ^ "chennaibest.com".
  7. ^ "Chairman – Kalakshetra Foundation". Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Director – Kalakshetra Foundation". Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Early years of Kalakshetra". tamilnation.org.
  10. ^ "Another centenary celebration". The Hindu. 27 January 2003. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2006.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ "Her spirit still reigns". The Hindu. 22 February 2004. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "Time to celebrate". The Hindu. 27 February 2003. Archived from the original on 29 August 2004.
  13. ^ Centenary celebrations nartaki.com
  14. ^ Santhanam, Radhika (25 February 2016). "Kalakshetra celebrates its 80th year". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Guru who inspired love (Sankara Menon's centenary at Kalakshetra)". The Hindu. 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 5 November 2007.
  16. ^ "Kalakshetra Chennai has a PoSH problem. Students fume, gag order imposed, art world shaken". The Print. 21 March 2023. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  17. ^ "NCW seeks action from Tamil Nadu DGP against Kalakshetra teacher facing sexual harassment charge". The Print. 22 March 2023. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Kalakshetra harassment row: NCW chairperson visits campus, enquires about allegations". The News Minute. 29 March 2023.
  19. ^ "Chennai's Kalakshetra students protest, call for end to harassment in the campus". The News Minute. 30 March 2023.
  20. ^ "Tamil Nadu CM Stalin assures of action against those involved in sexual harassment of Kalakshetra students". The Hindu. 31 March 2023.
  21. ^ "Sexual harassment case: Kalakshetra assistant professor Hari Padman arrested in Chennai". The Times of India. 3 April 2023.
  22. ^ "Kalakshetra sexual harassment case: Accused Hari Padman's wife files counter complaint". India Today. 6 April 2023.
  23. ^ "Kalakshetra director covered up a food poisoning outbreak in the middle of the pandemic". The News Minute. 6 April 2023.
  24. ^ "Kalakshetra lauded for signal contribution to fine arts". The Hindu. 22 December 2007. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007.
  25. ^ Noted students of Kalakshetra,Archived 2008-03-12 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Welcome". Anandashankarjayant.com. Retrieved 3 August 2012.


  • Fredericks, Leo: Poet in Kalakshetra. Madras 1977
  • Kalakshetra Foundation (Hrsg.): Kalakshetra Brochure
  • Nachiappan, C.: Rukmini Devi, Bharata Natya. Kalakshetra Publications, Chennai 2003
  • Nachiappan, C.: Rukmini Devi, Dance Drama. Kalakshetra Publications, Chennai 2003
  • Ramani, Shakuntala: Sari, the Kalakshetra tradition. Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai 2002
  • Sarada, S.: Kalakshetra-Rukmini Devi, reminiscences. Kala Mandir Trust, Madras 1985

External links[edit]