Trans woman-dancer Nartaki Natraj from Tamil Nadu has been awarded the Padma Shri this year.
Seven personalities from Tamil Nadu bagged the Padma awards this year. Sankara Eye Foundation founder Dr RV Ramani (Medicine), renowned plastic surgeon and founder of the Institute for the Research and Rehabilitation of Hand Dr Ramaswami Venkataswami, microfinancing pioneer Chinna Pillai, drums exponent Sivamani, spiritual guru Bangaru Adigalar and tennis player Sharath Kamal are the other Padma Shri awardees from Tamil Nadu.
Born in the temple town of Madurai, 54-year-old Nartaki Natraj is the first trans person to receive the Padma award.
She is a Bharatanatyam exponent and specialises in the Thanjavur-based Nayaki Bhava tradition. Narthaki left her home at a young age owing to gender insensitivity and went on to become a symbol of transgender empowerment. She fought rampant social taboo against trans persons to start training under veteran dancer K P Kittappa Pillai. Later, she went on to propagate his Tanjore Quartet heritage of Bharatanatyam. Nartaki is known for her research and performances based on Sangam. She has founded a dance school, where students from across the world come to learn the Indian dance form from her.
66-year-old P Chinnapillai from Madurai district has been working for the upliftment of rural women for over three decades now. She has successfully been leading the Kalanjiam SHG for women for a long time and helped set up over 2000 SHGs for the benefit of women. In addition to this she has strongly propogated organic farming and has even conducted medical camps in the state. She received the Stree Shakti Puraskar award in 2000 from then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who reportedly fell at her feet as mark of reverence for the work she has done for society.
Dr RV Ramani is the founder of Sankara Eye Foundation, which has eye hospitals across the country which treats rural patients for free. Born in Coimbatore in 1947, Dr RV Ramani secured his medical degree from Kasturba Medical College.
Dr Ramaswami Venkataswami is a renowned plastic surgeon who founded the Institute for the Research and Rehabilitation of Hand and established the plastic surgery department at Stanley Medical College, Chennai. He earned his medical degree from Stanley Medical College and specialises in plastic surgery from Nagpur.
Bangaru Adigalar is a spiritual guru and the President of the Adhiparasakthi Charitable Medical Educational and Cultural Trust. Based at the Melmaruvathur Adhiparasakthi temple near Chennai, he is believed to be an incarnation of the Goddess and is fondly called 'Amma' by his followers.
Anandan Sivamani, who goes by the popular name 'Drums' Sivamani is a leading percussionist in the country. Born in Chennai in 1959, Sivamani started drumming from a very young age. Picking the art up gradually he was invited by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain to share the stage with him. Sivamani, who has often teamed up with musicians like AR Rahman has helped in moulding the music industry to a large extent.
A popular face at IPL matches and a supporter of Chennai Super Kings, Sivamani was awarded the Kalaimamani award by the government of Tamil Nadu in 2009.
36-year-old Sharath Kamal is a professional table tennis player from Tamil Nadu and is only the second Indian table tennis player to become 8 times national champion after Kamlesh Mehta. He then went on to break this record in January 2019 by winning his ninth crown following a gruelling final against India teammate G Sathiyan . His current world rank is 30 and is still the top Indian TT player. He has represented India in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and represented the country in the 2006 Asian Games at Qatar. He received the Arjuna award in 2014. He is currently playing in the European league.
Last year, music director Ilaiyaraaja was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for art and Dr Ramachandran Nagaswamy was conferred with the Padma Bhushan for archaeology.
V Nanammal (Yoga), folk singer Vijalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan (Art), professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan (Science and Engineering) and Romulus Whitaker (Wildlife Conservation) were awarded the Padma Shri in 2018.
Padma Awards are among the highest civilian Awards of the country. The awards, that are announced every year on the eve of Republic day, are given in various disciplines like art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service. Padma Shriâ€™ is awarded as a recognition of distinguished service in any field.