Dr. Minati Mishra was born in 1937 in Cuttack, Orissa. She was born in a conservative but artistically inclined family. Father Shri Basanta Kumar Das was Headmaster in Government school in Cuttack. He was a strict educationist and used to sing as a past-time. Minati is the youngest among three children. Her brothers were also artists in their own right. Dr Srikanta Das is a dancer, flutist, dramatist and choreographer. Her other brother Shri Sukanta Das was a singer, flutist and table player. He retired as a High Court Magistrate
Minati was introduced to dance and music in a very early age. She started her lessons in classical singing, Esraj playing and folkdance.
In 1945, at a tender age of eight, she first saw a performance of Smt Laxmipriya Devi (later to be wife of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra) in the Annapurna theatre. Laxmipriya used to dance what was then known as Oriya Dance, a combination of Mahari and Gotipoa, as a part of the theatre act. At that time Guru Pankaj Charan Das and Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra, were also actors at the Annapurna theatre. Inspired by her wonderful performance, Minati was inclined to take up dancing.
She started taking lessons from Shri Ajit Ghosh and Shri Banabihari Maity of Calcutta. Under them she learnt mostly theme-based dance in a mixture of styles. She was introduced to Odissi by the legendary Shri Kabichandra Kalicharan Patnayak. Kabichandra is known for his pioneering in-depth research on Oriya dance styles and at that time also owned the Orissa Theatre. Later, in 1950 Minati started training under Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra.
In 1954 she received a Scholarship from the Government of Orissa to learn Bharatnatyam at Kalakshetra in Madras, under the revered Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, Shri Kutty Sarada and Shri Peria Sarada.
In 1955 she joined the Indian Institute of Free Arts under Guru Panda Wallur Pillai Chukkalingam and Guru Minakshi Sunderam Pillai.
In 1956 Minati did her Arangatran in Bharatnatyam, and received the title of Natya Kalabhushanam. She came back to Orissa and continued her pursuit of excelling in Odissi. In next three years she gave performances in several major cities in India including Madras, Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Bombay.
The European Era.
In 1959, she was invited to perform in Switzerland by the International Photographic Association. She performed in Zurich, Luzern, Geneva and Winterthur.
In 1962 she was awarded Doctor of Philosophy in Indology by the Phillip University in Marburg, Germany, for her research work on Natyashastra. She did her entire research in Sanskrit.
In 1963, she performed at the Berlin Film Festival, in presence of superstars of those days like Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quine and Carry Grant.
In 1964 she got married to Shri Nityananda Mishra, an engineer by profession. Her Father-in-law Dr Udaikar Mishra was a renowned politician in those days. Even though she was married into a conservative family, her in-laws were a great support in her pursuit of art.
The other side of Minati
Although Dance has always been her focus in life, Minati managed to pursue several other interests as well. Early in her life she was a keen athlete and a state level badminton player. She participated in various drama and folk theatre of her time. Around 1963 she started acting in cinema. She acted in four Oriya movies: Surja Mukhi, Arundhuti, Jiban Sathi and Sadhana. All four received President’s award for best regional cinema.
Besides her stint in cinema, she worked as “A” Grade Radio Drama artist at AIR as well. Unknown to many, Minati also received Sangeet Prabhakar in Hindutani Vocal music under training of .......................
Her husband Shri Nityanand Mishra died in 1980. Minati has since been living in Switzerland for the last 15-16 years. Her only son is a surgeon and today is well established in life. She divides her time between India , Switzerland and Canada, guiding and advising her students. She also participates in various festivals, lecture tours and workshops organised in these countries.
Dr Minati Mishra is one of the most respected and revered Odissi Gurus today. A majority of her students are recognised Gurus in their own right.