Shovana Narayan Wiki, Age, Husband, Children, Family, Biography & More

Shovana Narayan is an Indian Kathak maestro, who also served as a civil servant in the Indian Audit and Accounts Service. Student of the legendary dance Guru (master) Birju Maharaj, she got the fame for taking Kathak to the international stage by fusing it with Western classical dance forms, like the Spanish flamingo, American tap dance, and Classical Ballet. Recipient of the Padma Sri and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Shovana is also a writer and educationist.

Wiki/Biography

Shovana Narayan was born on Saturday, 2 September 1950 (age 74 years; as of 2024), in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Her zodiac sign is Virgo. She grew up in a family of intellectuals and social workers, who raised her to dance, music, and literature right from her infant years. She was introduced to Kathak when she was just 2 and a half years old. Her mother took her to her first Guru, Sadhana Bose (an eminent Indian dancer and actor), in Kolkata. From 1955 onwards, she was trained by Guru Kundal Lal in Mumbai. At the age of 4 years, she gave her first stage performance. From 1963 to 1974, she was trained by the famous Kathak dancer Guru Birju Maharaj in Delhi.

Pandit Birju Maharaj, Guru of Shovana Narayan

Pandit Birju Maharaj, Guru of Shovana Narayan

Shovana graduated with a master’s degree in physics in 1972 from Miranda House, Delhi, India. In 2002, she earned her M.phil in Social Sciences from Punjab University, and in 2008, an M.Phil in Defence & Strategic Studies from the University of Madras. She entered the Indian Civil Service (Indian Audits & Accounts Service) in 1976, from where she retired in 2010. Presently, she is working as a Kathak teacher, choreographer, researcher, and social worker.

Physical Appearance

Height (approx): 5′ 4″

Hair Color: Black

Eye Colour: Black

Shovana Narayan

Family

Parents & Siblings

Shovana Narayan’s mother, Lalita Narayan, was a social activist and politician. Her father, K. D. Narayan, was a civil servant.

Picture gallery of young Shovana Narayan. On extreme left are her parents, K. D. Narayan and Lalita Narayan

Picture gallery of young Shovana Narayan. On the extreme left are her parents, K. D. Narayan and Lalita Narayan

Shovana Narayan has a younger sister, Ranjana Narayan, who is a classical singer and lawyer.

Ranjana Narayan, sister of Shovana Narayan

Ranjana Narayan, sister of Shovana Narayan

Husband & Children

After a long-distance courtship, Shovana Narayan married an Austrian diplomat, Dr. Herbert Traxl, on 4 May 1982. Now retired, Herbert was an Austrian ambassador to India.

Shovana Narayan with husband, Herbert Traxl

Shovana Narayan with her husband, Herbert Traxl

Shovana Narayan has a son named Erwin Ishan Traxl, who is a lawyer. Her daughter-in-law is Perkha Ahmed and they gave birth to a daughter named, Lyla Traxl.

Shovana Narayan's son, Erwin Ishan Traxl with his wife, Perkha Ahmed

Shovana Narayan’s son, Erwin Ishan Traxl, with his wife, Perkha Ahmed

Other Relatives

Shovana Narayan’s father-in-law was Erwin Traxl.

Erwin Traxl, father-in-law of Shovana Narayan in his twenties

Erwin Traxl, father-in-law of Shovana Narayan in his twenties

Address

Shovana Narayan G-9, Pushpanjali Farms, Shahi Road, Bijwasan (near International Airport) Delhi – 110061 India.

Career

Kathak dancer and Trainer

Shovana’s career as a Kathak dancer gained prominence by the 1970s. She is praised for blending the traditional Kathak with Western classical dance forms like the Spanish flamenco, American tap dance, and Western classical ballet. Talking about her association with dance, Shovana Narayan once proclaimed,

the dance form is my breath, my five elements, my energy, and my soul.”

Shovana Narayan performing Kathak on stage

Shovana Narayan performing Kathak on stage

She was 13 years old when she became a Kathak student of the legendary dance Guru Pandit Birju Maharaj and continued it for 12 years. Recalling him, she once said,

I am extremely grateful to him because he used to come every day to my house to teach me. He would come around 7:30 pm and taught me till 10:30 pm. He taught me the whole day on Sundays when I got the National scholarship and enrolled in Kathak Kendra. So I am always grateful to Maharaj Ji for the kind of interest he took in grooming me as a dancer.”

Shovana Narayan with her Guru, Pandit Birju Maharaj

Shovana Narayan with her Kathak Guru, Pandit Birju Maharaj

Shovana entered teaching Kathak by mere chance. Her Guru Shambhu Maharaj died in 1973, and so to support his family, she started taking the Kathak classes, later realizing that she was good at it. She started the Asvari Institute for Kathak in 1979.

Shovana training her students in Kathak at the Asvari Institute

Shovana Narayan trains her students in Kathak at the Asvari Institute

Since the 1970s, Shovana’s Kathak performances have been rooted in social issues of environment, women, and children. From 1993 to 1998, her dance productions were based on philosophical themes, generated from the lives of famous thinkers and sages like Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and Francis of Assisi. She did this with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosopher grandson, late Prof. Ramchandra Gandhi.

Shovana Narayan’s famous choreographies and dance performances are:

  • Shakuntala – Maithili Sharan Gupt’s soliloquy on Yashoda in 1996.
  • Yashoda – Sitakant Mahapatra’s soliloquy on Yashoda in 2000.
  • Kadambari: The Poet’s Muse – on Kadambari’s influence on Rabindranath Tagore, who was his sister-in-law.

Shovana Narayan’s famous international collaborations as a choreographer and dancer are:

  •  Moonlight Impressionism – this was on the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Ravel, Chopin, Vivaldi & Debussy.
  • The Dawn After – is the first-ever trilogy involving Spanish flamenco and Western classical ballet. Shovana was the producer, creative director, and dancer in this.
  • Sound of Emptiness and Harmony – as a call for introspection after the World Trade Centre episodes.

Shovana Narayan has been the creative director-choreographer of several international events, like the classical dance segment of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Indian Independence at National Stadium in 1997, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games 2010, and the 6th International Abilympics 2003.

Author

Shovana Narayan has written various research papers that have been published in distinguished newspapers like The Tribune, The Times Of India, etc. She has also contributed to the journals of institutions like UNESCO and Sangeet Natak Akedami, to name a few. Over 500 articles and about 19 books are under her name. [1]The Hindu Shovana has written an autobiography titled ‘Meandering Pastures of Memories.’

Other books authored by Shovana are:

  • Indian Classical Dances
  • Performing Arts in India: A Policy Perspective
  • Indian Theatre and Dance Traditions
  • Rhythmic Echoes & Reflections: Kathak
  • The Dance Legacy of Patliputra
  • Kathak

    Kathak, a book by Shovani Narayan

  • The Sterling Book of Indian Classical Dances
  • Folk Dance Traditions of India
  • Krishna in performing arts Krishna in Performing Arts, a book by Shovana Narayan
  • Kathak Lok Temples: Traditions and History- in collaboration with Geetika Kalha.

    Shovana Narayan and Geetika Kalha at the launch of their book

    Shovana Narayan and Geetika Kalha at the launch of their book

Educationist

Shovana Narayan has been the Governing Board member of prestigious higher education institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Finance, etc. She is a trustee of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project India. She is also a motivating speaker.

Civil Servant

Shovana is the first famous Indian classical dancer to have a parallel career in the Indian Civil Services. She served as an officer in the Indian Audit and Accounts Service till the age of retirement. She joined in 1976 and retired in 2010. She conducted many assignments in the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Finance, BSNL, and Rajya Sabha, etc. She was appointed as the assistant returning officer in the 1992 Presidential Elections and the Director General of the International Centre for Information Systems and Audit (iCISA) in the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

Favourites

Food: Rice and lentils

Book: The Bhagavad Gita

Movie: Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

Destination: Vienna

Awards

  • Bihar Gaurav Puraskar (1985)
  • Padma Shri (1992)
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999–2000)
  • Top Cultural Ambassador Award by World Marketing Congress, IMM (2002)
  • Kelvinator’s GR8Award (2007)
  • FICCI’s FLO Silver Jubilee Awards for Women of Excellence(2007-2008
  • Kalpana Chawla Excellence Award (2010)
  • Women’s International Award (2010)
  • Oisca Award, Japan (1990–91)
  • Dadabhai Naoroji Award (1993)
  • Rajiv Smriti Puraskar (1993)
  • Rajdhani Ratna Award
  • Shringar Shiromani Award
  • Rotary International Award
  • Bharat Nirman Award
  • National Integration Award

    Shovana Narayan receiving Padma Shri from the president, R. Venkataraman in 1992

    Shovana Narayan, receiving Padma Shri from the President R. Venkataraman in 1992

Honours

  • She has been honoured with a D. Litt (h. c.) by Khairagarh University.
  • Delhi Government’s Parishad Samman
  • Indira Priyadarshini Samman (1996)

Trivia

  • In the 1990s, she suffered from a brain stroke that paralysed her eye nerves, losing half of her vision. She has a hole in her heart and is also fighting her knee, shoulders, and skin problems. Talking about this as her only challenge in life, she once said,

    It was dance and total immersion in it that gave me strength, courage and a nonchalant approach to face life on my terms. For me Kathak dance is yoga; it is total meditation; it is bhakti-yoga and bhakti marg to elevate the inner self.

  • Her hobbies are reading, dancing, listening to music, sketching, and walking. She loves architecture.
  • She is a keen believer in the Gurukul-Parampara and has refined the ‘Guru-Shishya’ tradition to the terms of modern society to impart it to the next generation.
  • A 2016 documentary, “Born to Dance,” by Beenu Rajput is based on Shovana Narayan’s life [2]The Indian Express

    Beenu Rajpoot, director of biopic, ' Born to Shine' with Shovana Narayan

    Beenu Rajpoot, director of the biopic ‘Born to Shine’ with Shovana Narayan

  • Shovana is the first dancer to bring out a dance video on the philosophy and legend of the immortal Khajuraho temples, entitled ‘Dance of the Temples.’
  • She is an excellent organiser. Shovana created and organizes festivals like Lalit Arpan Festival and ‘Rhythm & Joy,’ to promote the Kathak as our cultural heritage.

    An invitation poster of Lalit Arpan Festival (2023) that was started by Shovana Narayan

    An invitation poster for the Lalit Arpan Festival (2023) that was started by Shovana Narayan

  • Shovana has thoroughly researched the origin and associations of Kathak. She logically explained that Kathak is a temple dance of the Brahmins, erasing the misconception that it is a dance of the Mughal courts. She researched the name ‘Kathak’ which is a Sanskrit term to question its association with the Mughal culture. For this, she collaborated with scholar K. K. Mishra who helped her discover Kathak-related Prakrit inscriptions in Asokan-Brahmi script that date back to the 4th century.
  • She has discovered 8 Kathak villages near Gaya with her research on the official records and documentaries.
  • Shovana has also tried acting. She has a lead role in the 1996 Hindi documentary film ‘Akbar’s Bridge’ (Hindi) [3]India Today
  • A German documentary film by director Jorn Thiel  has been made on her titled ‘Das Geheimnis des Indisches Tanz.’
  • An American film director Robert Gottlieb has also made a film on her.
  • Shovana has been an opera singer. “Ghalib ki Dilli” and ‘Wicchare Pani’ are her opera pieces.
  • Shovana Narayan is an active social worker. She raised funds for families affected by the tragedies like Kargil War and the Tsunami.

References[+]

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