Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts


In August 1935, Rukmini Devi along with her husband Dr. George Sydney Arundale and her brother Yagneswaran, met with a few friends to discuss a matter of great importance to her – the idea of establishing an arts centre where some of the arts, particularly music and dance, could thrive under careful guidance. On the 6th of January 1936 the International Centre for Arts (as it was initially known) was founded within the campus of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, in Chennai (then Madras). Rukmini Devi headed the institution with the active support of Dr. Arundale and their mentor Dr. Annie Besant. This institution would later come to be known as Kalakshetra.

The centre began under a tree in the Theosophical Society campus, with one student, Radha -Radha Burnier as she was later known. She was Rukmini Devi’s niece who went on to become the President of the Theosophical Society. Soon two other students, G. Leelavati and A. Sarada (Sarada Hoffman) joined Radha in a classroom with a thatched roof, with three mirrors – the famous kannadi kottagai of Kalakshetra.

Encouraged by her husband, Rukmini Devi acquired land in the village of Thiruvanmiyur, a short distance away from the Theosophical Society. In 1951, a sapling of the banyan tree in the Theosophical Society was taken and planted at Thiruvanmiyur. The new campus of Kalakshetra was consolidated in the years that followed until it covered one hundred lush acres besides the sea.

Rukmini Devi and her associates undertook the herculean task of finding the funds to build the institution. They built roads, planted trees, found committed architects, engineers and building material during a period of shortages, to create a sylvan oasis for art and education. Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer laid the foundation stone of Kalakshetra on the 27th of December1961. By the 7th of May 1962, Kalakshetra had moved into its new home, a campus with a unique identity that reflected its founder’s dream. Rukmini Devi’s vision spread like the roots of the banyan tree, and at present, continues to grow, imparting the true values and spirit of Art to the present generation.

Kalakshetra Foundation as it is known today was recognised by the Government of India as an Institute of National Importance by an Act of Parliament in 1993 and is now an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

The Foundation comprises of

  • Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts (RDCFA)
  • Besant Theosophical Higher Secondary School (BTHSS)
  • Besant Arundale Senior Secondary School (BASSS)
  • Besant Cultural Centre Hostel
  • Craft Education and Research Centre (CERC)