Rukmini Devi Arundale (February 29, 1904 - February 24, 1986) was a well-known theosophist, dancer and choreographer in Bharatanatyam, and also an activist for animal rights and vegetarianism. She is considered the most important figure in reviving Bharatanatyam from its original 'sadhir' style, prevalent amongst the temple dancers, devadasis.
Though she belonged to the upper caste she espoused the cause of Bharatanatyam, which was considered a low and vulgar art in the early 1920s. She not only learned the dance, but also presented it on stage in spite of strong public protests.
Her father, Neelakanta Sastri had built his home near the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, Adyar. It was here that young Rukmini was exposed to not just theosophical thought but also new ideas in culture, theatre, music and dance, and later met prominent British Theosophist Dr George Arundale, who was a close associate of Annie Besant. In 1920, they got married, shocking the then conservative society.
In 1933, at the Annual Conference of Madras Music Academy, she saw for the first time, a performance of the dance form called Sadhir. Later, she learnt the dance from 'Mylapore Gowri Amma', and finally with the help of E Krishna Iyer, from 'Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai'. In 1935, Rukmini Devi gave her first public performance at the `Diamond Jubilee Convention of the Theosophical Society. In January 1936, she along with her husband, established Kalakshetra, an academy of dance and music at Adyar, Chennai.
Rukmini Devi was also nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha in April 1952 and re-nominated in 1956. In 1977, Morarji Desai offered to nominate her for the post of President of India, which she turned down. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1957 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1967.