Kalakshetra, later known as Kalakshetra Foundation, is a cultural academy conceptualized for the preservation of tradition in the field of Indian art, particularly in dance and music. It was originally established in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale together with her husband, Dr. George Arundale, a renowned theosophist, whose commitment to excellence earned the institution recognition on both national and international levels. The academy moved to 40 hectares of land in Besant Nagar, Chennai in 1962 and has since then become one of Chennai City’s cherished treasures.
Literally, Kalakshetra means “holy place of arts” and derives from the words “kala” meaning arts and “kshetra” meaning field or holy place. This is exactly what the select group of students of Kalakshetra experience as they learn in an idyllic location amidst a backdrop of greenery and open sea, gaining inspiration from nature’s beauty and enjoying the perfect union of nature and modern comforts provided by the school. The students are encouraged to live in the campus accommodations for the entire school year for them to experience a peaceful and holistic way of life, the experience of which will enable them to fully develop their art form of choice.
The main objective of the Kalakshetra Foundation is the training of young and talented individuals by only true masters and gurus of art through teacher-student relationships that are imbued with mutual respect. According to its founder, the school adheres to the principles of “art without vulgarity” and “education without fear” and aims to utilize the arts as a tool for personal, spiritual, national and international development.
The institution boasts of only the best of students, teachers, artists and musicians from India and from other countries in the fields of music, dance, film, theater, puppetry, and literature. Musical performances from known professional artists and from the students themselves are showcased every month and are open to the public. Art and craft exhibitions are held at different times of the year, as are workshops and lecture demonstrations.
There are three major annual exhibits and performances in February, September and December to January which are all must-sees by public audiences as Kalakshetra signature performances are distinctively simple, elegant, excellent and imbued with formal vigor. Since dance has been forbidden in temples, Kalakshetra aims to preserve their art traditions by replicating the temple atmosphere onstage. One such venue is their very own Bharata Kalakshetra Auditorium set outdoors, in the midst of trees where the performers and the audience become one entity and where the natural surroundings are incorporated in the performance. Another venue is the Rukmini Arangam or open-air theater that can seat an intimate group of around 200 people around a stately banyan tree which is always an enchanting performance worthy of remembrance.
Guests are invited to stroll about the grounds, visit the school’s museum and craft center to be able to develop a deeper understanding of Indian art through standards of excellence that are uniquely Kalakshetra’s.
For more than seven decades, Kalakshetra Foundation has been an invaluable physical and cultural landmark of Indian culture. It was, in fact, recognized by the Indian Parliament as an “Institute of National Importance” in 1994. It remains, to this day, a fine testament to the commitment to excellence and perfection by its founders