Book: Balasaraswati – Her Art and Life, by Douglas M Knight Jr.

In his biography, “Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life”, Douglas Knight (her son-in law) explores the life of  the dancer Balasaraswati.

” This is the first complete biography of T. Balasaraswati (1918–1984), a dancer and musician from southern India who became recognized worldwide as one of the great performing artists of the twentieth century. In India she was a legend in her own time, acclaimed before she was thirty years old as the great dancer of traditional bharata natyam. Balasaraswati was a passionate revolutionary, an entirely modern artist whose impact was proclaimed by some of the most prominent figures in contemporary dance in India and the West. Her art and life defined the heart of a tradition. Her life story offers an extraordinary view of the enigmatic matrilineal devadasi community and traditional artistic practice from which modern South Indian dance styles have emerged. This deeply engaging biography draws together Balasaraswati’s personal account of her life and her reflections on the process of making dance and music. It includes the commentary of family members and dozens of contemporaries from throughout her fifty-year career, revealing hereditary artistic values and conventions that have virtually disappeared in modern India. The book is generously illustrated with rare historical photos and a duotone gallery of distinguished photographers’ images of Balasaraswati’s dancing.” (1)

To see a video of the launch of this book at the Asia Society, where Knight was joined by his son, Aniruddha Knight, Balasaraswati’s grandson – click here. This is an hour and 20 mins+ video presentation that includes a rare video clipping of Mylapore Gauri Ammal’s abhinaya, Balasaraswathi  presenting “Krishna Nee Begane Baro” after doing an alapana.

For a review in Narthaki by Mr. Ragothaman, who happens to share a lot of the information that you get to see in this blog,  click here. It is very encouraging to see that his review has paved way for a special section at for Book Reviews. If you do get to read the book, please share your book reports/review at

To purchase this book : I found two links where you can buy the book online. These links also provide more information about the contents of the book.

  1. This website lists the book’s table of contents at

2 responses to “Book: Balasaraswati – Her Art and Life, by Douglas M Knight Jr.

  1. Dear Ms. Balasaraswati

    It is with utmost sincerity, respect and honesty that i say I don’t get your dancing at all. If this is how devadasis dance and this is the best of that generation, that which is celebrated beyond decades, I have no aspiration to achieve anything of this sort. Your Nritta is non-existant and abhinaya is so unpolished that i am confused at what all this hype is about. People talk about ‘Bala’s Krishna ni begane’ but seriously, i had hoped somenoe from your family of devadasis would have told you that nilada bahuli means blue bracelets/armlets and not kundalam!!!!! The worst thing is that is the least of my problems with your celebrated interpretation of Krishna Ni begane.

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