R Muthukannammal (born 1937) is a seventh generation veteran Sadir dancer from the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. She is the only surviving person among the 32 Devadasis who served the deity at the Viralimalai Murugan temple and she is the last woman to have the ceremony pottukkattutal of dedicating oneself to God performed at the Viralimalai temple.[1] In the year 2022, Govt of India honoured Muthukannammal by conferring the Padma Shri award for her contributions in the field of art.[2] The dance form Sadir, variously called as Sadiraattam or Parathaiyar Aattam or Thevarattam, is a classical Indian dance from which was reinvented, modified and rechristened as Bharatanatyam through the efforts of E Krishna Iyer in 1932. However, Muthukannammal has chosen to call her art form Sadir, making her the only Sadir exponent today.[3]

Early life and education

Muthukannammal was born in 1937 in Viralimalai, 28 km from Trichy into a hereditary Isai Vellalar family of dancers and musicians. She is the daughter of Ramachandra Nattuvanaar (1890-1988) who himself was a much respected dancer, a competent dance teacher and the most popular and respected nattuvanar in Viralimalai.[4] Since her family is a dancers' family, she had started dancing from the time she learned to walk. At the age of seven, she had pottukkattutal performed at Viralimalai Murugan temple and she had her arangetram (début on-stage performance). Later she was trained extensively in dancing by her father and grandmother.

Her family was closely associated with temple dance practices in the Viralimalai Murugan temple and other temples, and also with the Pudukkottai Palace. Her family was under the patronage of Pudukkottai kings. King Rajagopala Tondaiman, the ninth and last ruler of the princely state of Pudukkottai, had gifted agricultural lands to her family for their temple services. However, due to the strong ant-Devadasi movement then raging in Tamil Nadu, especially in Viralimalai, there was a steep decline in interest among the general public and temple administrators in the ritualistic traditional performances of dance and music by Muthukannammal and members of her family. This resulted in the dwindling of a regular income and Muthukannammal and her family had go through severe hardships. Perhaps this forced her to embark on a new life with performances at weddings and other social functions.[4]

Recognition: Padma Shri

Other recognitions

See also


  1. ^ a b "The story of a woman whose lifeblood is Sathir". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Padma Awards 2022" (PDF). Padma Awards. Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-01-25. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b Nrithya Pillai. "A Padma Shri for 84-yr-old dancer Muthukannammal: Long overdue but welcome". The News Minute. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  4. ^ a b Davesh Soneji (2012). Unfinished Gestures: Devadasiss, Memory, and Modernity in South India. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-226-76809-0.
  5. ^ "Padma Awards 2022". Padma Awards. Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India. Archived from the original on 2022-01-29. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Last of Trichy Sadhirs, Muthukannamal, to be feted". The Times of India. Retrieved 26 March 2022.

Additional reading

Devaradiyaar in Sadir - The Life and Art of Muthukannammal a biopic by Films Division of India on YouTube Directed by S.Shanmuganathan