Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is a distinguished Bharatanatyam dancer and Guru from the State of Tamil Nadu in India. Born in Madurai, the heart of Tamil culture, she pursued formal training in Bharatanatyam from the late Guru Namanur Jeyaraman in the Thanjavur-tradition. Her perseverance in the tradition led Narthaki to the ancient city of Thanjavur, where she pursued traditional gurukula training from the renowned Guru Kittappa Pillai. She completed 15 years of the intense in-residency gaining scholastic prowess from the late Guru. With this legacy and as an ambassador of the Thanjavur-tradition of Bharatanatyam, Narthaki has been spreading treasured repertoires, temple mysticism, Tamil literature, and rare choreographic concepts at local, regional, and international arts and culture festivals. Together with her lifetime mentor-companion Ms. Shakthi Bhaskar, she established the Velliamballam Trust – School of Dance. She is popular world-wide among patrons, connoisseurs, scholars, and youth, especially those pursuing a study of Bharatanatyam. Narthaki’s exemplary works have been well-acclaimed.
- 2007 Kalaimamani Award – State Government of Tamil Nadu
- 2011 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award , Ministry of Culture Government of India
- 2016 Honorary Doctorate – Periyar Maniammai University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
- 2017 Empanelled Outstanding Dance Artist Indian Council for Cultural Relations
- 2019 Padma Shri Award – India’s 4th highest civilian award Government of India
- 2022 Nrithya Kalanidhi Award – The Madras Music Academy
Identifying as transgendered at the tender age of 10 years, Narthaki overcame numerous societal barriers. Her high standing in the world of arts and literature has contributed immensely to her overall success in society. She coined the word ‘thirunangai’ in Tamil, literally meaning the ‘divine female’, that has been officially adopted by the State Government of Tamil Nadu to designate ‘transwoman’. Narthaki fosters an intersectional development programme by imparting Bharatanatyam training and opportunities to students from the LGBTQ2S and marginalized communities. Her inspirational life story is featured as a lesson in Tamil Nadu’s State Board textbooks. Narthaki is an excellent scholar, orator, and speaker of Tamil literature. Her artistic and social status have earned her prominence, and currently Narthaki serves as an appointed Member of the Tamil Nadu State Development Policy Council.