Bangalore Nagarathnamma

Traditionally in the south, people were known by the name of their native village or town. I don’t think there are too many people known that way from Bangalore.

One exception is the great artist Nagarathnamma. who was a musician and dancer from the Devadasi tradition, who was well known in the early 20th century. Though originally from Mysore, she established herself from Bangalore in 1890’s and so became known as Bangalore Nagarathnamma. She was apparently the first artiste to pay income tax!

An ardent devotee of Saint Tyagaraja, she was responsible for building a temple at his Samadhi and organising the annual Bhramotsava. Nagarathnamma had a fascinating life, according to this profile on Sruti
“…a colorful personality, enormously capable and courageous, compassionate and witty… [she] never forgot the trauma of her childhood, the slights and humiliation and hardships she and her mother had to suffer, their valiant efforts to lift themselves out of a place society did not look upon with any kindness but never ceased to exploit, to a rightful place of honor and dignity. Once she was invited to a conference of Telugu and Sanskrit poets where a noted poet spoke admiringly of a translation of Andal’s Tiruppavai by one Muttu Palani whom he mistakenly referred to as a man. Nagarathnamma burst out laughing and chastised the great poet: “Shame on you! Despite all your learning, you do not know that Muttu Palani had the honor of being a devadasi, like me.”

She tirelessly championed the cause of women artists. Her will charges the executors “never to depart from the real spirit of principle and purpose underlying the celebration,” and forbids anyone from trying “to debar lady artists and singers including devadasis.”

Can you think of anybody else with Bangalore in their name?

1 Comment so far

  1. Sethuraman (unregistered) on December 12th, 2007 @ 8:16 am

    There was a Reading on Bangalore Nagarathnamma – Sruthi Smrithi Kirti recently and this was published in the Hindu – am sending a copy of that article to you by email – I learn that there are some relations still living Bangalore.

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