Guru Maya Rao (2 May 1928 – 1 September 2014) is a legend in the Indian art arena. Lovingly called Maya Didi, she transformed the landscape of Indian dance with her visionary outlook and inspirational career-path. Having pursued an unconventional profession in times less tolerant, Maya Didi was celebrated for her excellence as a dancer, choreographer and educator.

In the year 1955, Maya Didi became the first recipient of the Government of India Scholarship to study extensively under the tutelage of Padmashri Shri Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana. She later specialised in the Jaipur Gharana under Shri Sunder Prasad.

Maya Didi is also the only Indian to hold a Post Graduate Certificate in Choreography from the former USSR. What she created thereon has mesmerized millions of people world over. Her choreographies and ballets are timeless masterpieces.

Maya Didi was a visionary who wished to develop a systematic model of education dedicated to the field of dance. Her dream was realized with the establishment of Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography – the only institute in India that offers a degree course in choreography. She has also created syllabi and authored text books for the Karnataka Secondary Education Board’s Kathak examination besides having written for several prestigious publications.

As the Chairperson of Karnataka State Sangeet Nritya Academy, Maya Didi introduced the National Performing Arts Festival at Heritage Monuments – Somanathapura (1988), Pattadkal (1989) and Halebid (1990).

She has also led cultural delegations to more than 36 countries and acquainted diverse communities with India’s rich dance heritage and culture. She was indispensable on several boards, award panels and advisory committees of Sangeet Natak Academy, Kathak Kendra and many other international organisations.

Maya Didi has been recognized for her relentless efforts and unparalleled contribution with a series of prestigious awards – some of them being the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Sahitya Kala Parishad award, Shantala Prashasti, Purandara award, Emiritus fellowship, Tagore Ratna & an Honorary Doctorate from Bangalore University.