Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, is a leading Bharatanatyam Exponent of India, born in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. She is the disciple of Tanjore Shri K P Kittappa Pillai, who was a direct descendant of the Tanjore Quartet brothers (considered the fathers of Bharatanatyam).
Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, is a leading Bharatanatyam Exponent of India, born in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. She is the disciple of Tanjore Shri K P Kittappa Pillai, who was a direct descendant of the Tanjore Quartet brothers (considered the fathers of Bharatanatyam). She learnt and practiced under him in Gurukul (Full time residential) for 15 years and specialized in the Tanjore style Nayaki Bhava tradition (Bridal Mystism through Art). She also trained under him on rare compositions as was practiced in ancient Tamil Temples.
Being a transwoman, Dr. Narthaki, had to overcome societal hurdles with stoic courage and steadfast determination, to reach the position that she has achieved today. She credits all her achievements to her talent, passion, hard work and perseverance. She is widely regarded as a role model for the queer community, especially the transgender community of India.
She has been awarded the prestigious Padmashri award, the fourth highest civilian award by the Govt of India for her contribution and success in the field of bharatnatyam. She is a recipient of Honorary Doctorate from Periyar Maniammai University and Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Puraskar Award from The President of India. She is also a
recipient of senior fellowship from the Ministry of Culture Govt. Of India and an outstanding category empanelled artist at ICCR.
She is also the first Transgender artist to be make such great achievements pioneering for the likes of her and setting path of the future aspirants. Her inspirational life story has been included as a lesson in the Tamil Nadu state educational board’s class 11 textbook.
In professional front, Narthaki believes in maintaining and propagating the pristine purity of the Nayaki Bhava tradition (Bridal Mystism). In that process, she has been able to elevate audiences to a higher plane. Many audiences have been moved to tears and some have reported divine experiences during her shows.
On a societal front, Dr. Narthaki, has been selected to be an honorary member of Tamilnadu’s State Planning Commission, (here too being the first Trans person to be part of a State’s planning commission). This is the first time in India that a State Govt has included a Transgender performing artist in the State’s planning commission. She is actively involved in planning policies in the fields of social development for marginal community groups and transgender community, Tamil language development, art and culture, tourism, excavation and archeology.
Her vision is to make an inclusive society for the transgender and marginalized community. Also to make Art available to everyone.
Dr. Narthaki Nataraj has established an institution called the ‘Velliambalam Trust - School of Dance’ along with her friend, guide and mentor, Ms. Sakthi Bhaskar who is also a transwoman and also a professional dancer. Together, they have been teaching dance to Indian and foreign students, especially for the members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
• Member of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission
• Padmashri Award
• SNA Purasakar Award
• Kalaimamani Award from Tamilnadu Govt
• Senior Fellowship from Sangeet Natak Akademi, MOC Govt. of India • Outstanding category Artist in ICCR
• Top Grade Artist in Prasar Bharathi
• Honorary Doctorate from Periyar Maniammai University
• Nruthya Choodamani Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Chennai
• Nrithya Rathnakara from Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival
• Kala Seva Bharathi by Bharat Kalachar Chennai.
Other Achievements (Sample list)
•Best dancer and Best Research on Swathi Thirunal Maharaja's music compositions – award and certificate by Naradha Gana Sabha and Travancore Royal Family Thiruvananthapuram.
•Natramizh Nadana Mani by North Carolina Tamil Sangam USA
•Best Dance performance award at 6th World Tamil Internet Conference
•Natya Peroli from Madurai Adheenam Mutt, Madurai
•Visiting Scholar at Oslo School of Music in Norway
•Nayaki Bhava Rathnam, Srimath Nadana Gopal Nayaki Mandir Madurai
•Worked as an assistant to Shri Kittappa Pillai at Tanjore Tamil University.
•Demo artist in the documentary recorded by Shri K P Kitappa Pillai for Sangeet Natak Akademi.
• Preserving and propagating rare compositions of Thanjavur Quartets
•Exponent of Thanjavur Nayaki Bhava Tradition as practiced in ancient Tamil Temples.
•Researching and performing Bharatanatyam based on Tamil Sangam Literature, Saivait and Vaishnavait Literature etc.
•Set up and running Velliyambalam Trust School of Dance in Chennai and Coimbatore with students from India as well as foreign students interested in Indian culture.
•Performance, Lecture Demo and Paper presentation on Kambha Ramayanam (Tamil Classic) at various Kambhan Kazhagam Chapters across the world (A community of renowned scholars)
• Committee member for selecting Best books in Art Section by Tamil Nadu Govt
• Committee member in advisory committee at Chennai South Zone Cultural Centre.