Padmashri, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Bihar Govt.’s National, Delhi Govt.’s Parishad Awardee

Shovana Narayan, a name synonymous with Kathak, is the celebrated outstanding doyen of this art form, breathing the spirit & ethos of Indian spirituality, classicism and artistic excellence. For her outstanding consistent and trend-setting pioneering works in Kathak, she is the recipient of 39+ national and international awards.
-Padmashri Award by the President of India in 1992, Sangeet Natak Akademi award for 1999-2000 in 2001, Delhi Govt’s Parishad Samman 1993, Bihar Govt’s National Award for 2018-19 in 2001 & Bihar Gaurav Award and Japan’s OISCA Award, to name a few.
Been conferred D.Litt (HC). Holds MPhil in “Defence & Strategic Studies” and “Social Sciences” and a Master’s in Physics. Shortlisted for the Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Delhi, 1997.

Multi-faceted Shovana is a pioneer, leaving her indelible imprint as a performer, choreographer, Guru, researcher, organiser & author. Her pristine and sparkling performances steeped in classicism and tradition, breathe fresh air of artistic innovations and social consciousness too. Her performances in the last over five decades in several national and international Festivals and before several Heads of States and Governments have been mesmerizing. Deeply entrenched in Hindi and Sanskrit Literature, Hindu philosophy, her performances have been marked with depth of emotion along with the vivaciousness imparted by rhythmic brilliance. Even when the trend was to emote thumris, she opened the doors to the new path of basing her emotional outpourings from verses of Hindi and Sanskrit litterateurs, as early as in the early seventies (1970-71). She thus exhibited a silent revolution that came from her innate courage, unafraid in charting new paths, infusing traditional vocabulary with modern sensibilities within the intangible aspects of Kathak that have become pioneering works. Emotional depth, gravity and depth of thought and treatment that bespeak social sensitivity saw outpourings metaphorically being trendsetters on issues of environment, issues relating to women and the girl child, human rights, incest, transiency of life, inter-faith dialogues with Buddhism, Sufism and inter cultural dialogues with other western classical music and dance forms.

She pioneered the genre of dance enactments to philosophical themes with eminent philosopher, late Prof Ramchandra Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) that were based on the lives of contemporary thinkers and sages (Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand, Ramana Maharshi, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Francis of Assisi). She rejuvenated the narrative tradition of North-India by presenting soliloquy (“Shakuntala” by Maithili Sharan Gupt & Ýashoda’s Soliloquy’ by Sitakant Mohapatra). Her portrayal of Alia in the telefilm Akbar’s Bridge won her accolades as an extremely sensitive actress. Spearheading and producing international collaborative works with nationally and internationally known Indian and western dancers and musicians and with special children, she has been Creative Director-choreographer of several international events such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of 6th International Abilympics 2003, Commonwealth Games 2010, Ter-Centenary of Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa panth 1999, classical dance segment of Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Indian Independence at National Stadium 1997.

Authored 16 books, numerous articles (for INTACH, UNESCO etc.) and these based on study of epigraphical research are valuable sources of information, having demolished several pre-conceived notions. Her deep research led to discovery of 16 Kathak villages in eastern UP & Bihar. Has made a film on the philosophical aspect of Khajuraho (“Dance of the Temples”). A visiting lecturer to several Universities in India and abroad, has given several hundreds of lecture demonstrations and motivational workshops all across. A central figure in ongoing discussions in the cultural field as participant in countless symposia and seminaries, has guided research students for award of PhD degree in the field of dance.

Shovana, a dedicated guru of standing, lays stress on not only imparting correct techniques with keen in-depth knowledge of the shastras but also on the intangible spirit and ethos of Kathak in the true Guru-Shishya parampara. Is imparting free training to 50+ underprivileged students for the last several decades and her choreography with 600 “specially abled” students in the 6th Abilympics (2003) won her international accolades. She holds 2 well known Annual Festivals.

Charting new paths, Guru Shovana Narayan is perhaps the only example of one has relentlessly pursued two parallel exacting professional careers, as a civil servant (IAAS, 1976 batch) and a recognized Kathak Dancer-Guru, achieving distinction and great heights in both. Her Asavari group is credited with many path-breaking works, whether they were sensitive portrayals of social issues or whether they were explorations of rhythmic dimensions in terms of sound-scapes and emotional-scapes! Her quiet dignity and demeanour of her works and conduct has made her a role model for millions of aspiring girls. She is an “artiste par excellence” in the true sense.