Kapila Vatsyayan 

#GS1 #Art&Culture 


Kapila Vatsyayan, the grand matriarch of cultural research has passed away recently. 


About Kapila Vatsyayan  

  • Born into a Punjabi Arya Samaji family on December 25, 1928, the fiercely independent and multi-faceted personality effortlessly combined theoretical knowledge with rigorous practice and brought a multidisciplinary approach to understanding Indian culture. 
  • Her holistic approach broke new ground in the study of Indian dance forms and not only positioned them on the cultural map of the world but also led to extensive research work, opening new vistas. 
  • Having imbibed the rich cultural values of Oriental dance during her stay at Shantiniketan, she went on to learn Kathak from Achhan Maharaj, Manipuri from Guru Amobi Singh, and Bharatanatyam from guru Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. She performed a Kathak recital at the first Dance Festival held at the Feroz Shah Kotla Grounds in 1945. 
  • Over the years, Ms. Vatsyayan, a Padma Vibhushan awardee, engaged extensively with western dance forms as well, and maintained that while the Indian tradition is in dialogue with the earth, the West aspires to be free from it. “But never manages to,” she would assert. 
  • Blending tangible with the intangible and finding connections between the arts and the sciences, she wrote extensively on the geometrical body stances in Indian dance forms and complex rhythmic patterns that reflect mathematical flourishes in the Indian cultural firmament. 
  • She was the former representative of India to UNESCO’s executive board. She would often underline that any experiment should be to augment Indian classical forms, not to dilute or distract the new generation from its essence. 
  • Her canvas was not limited to dance, though. This is evident in her vast corpus of writings, such as Plural Cultures and Monolithic Structures: Comprehending India, Dance in Indian Painting and The Indian Arts, Their Ideational Background and Principles of Forms. 



  • During the decades of the Nehru-Gandhi rule, Vatsyayan was the go-to person for showcasing Indian culture to the world. She helped legends like Birju Maharaj and Balasaraswati find a global audience. 
  • From taking troupes of artistes all over the world as part of Jawaharlal Nehru’s cultural diplomacy to borrowing Chola bronzes at the National Museum for the Non-Aligned Movement Conference in 1983 from south Indian temples, she did it all, cutting a lot of red tape along the way. 
  • She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2006 but had to vacate her seat following the office of profit controversy. In April 2007, she was renominated. 
  • She was married to Hindi writer S.H. Vatsyayan ‘Ageya’. 
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