Darpana: History & Mission

From a small dance academy that was founded over five decades ago, today Darpana is a workshop for the arts where tradition meets technology to break down boundaries of art and life, where performers from the world over work together to open mindscapes through the arts. With a beautiful campus on the banks of the historic Sabarmati river, only a mile away from Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Ashram, Darpana is one of India’s oldest performing arts institutions.
Established by legendary dancer Mrinalini and her husband, renowned scientist, Vikram Sarabhai in 1949, Darpana over the decades has become an international centre of the arts where students and professionals gather to hone their skills and to explore new territories in the arts and their use for social change. Darpana’s activities range from performance and teaching of the arts to their use as developmental communication through direct interaction with communities as well as television programming. Its audiences range from arts lovers to district and Supreme Court judges, the less privileged across the world, children, women, tribal populations and more.
With over 25,000 graduates, nearly 10,000 performances, audiences in 94 countries and a vibrant arts environment, Darpana is a centre for artists committed to excellence, innovation and the excitement of using the arts for change. Darpana’s vision is a contemporary symbiosis affirming the role of creativity in culture, researching into our origins and reaching out to the unsaid or unthought-of, with a language that is universal.

Darpana believes that through the arts it can play a vital role in:

      • Empowering human beings
      • Building a sense of equality in society
      • Encouraging people to find their own voice
      • Reinforcing people’s sense of pride in their community
      • Making people more responsible for their society
      • Provoking new thinking about ways to deal with violence and hatred
      • Refocusing attention on values for peace
      • Combating the destructive forces of communalism and casteism
      • Creating new life for dying art and culture
      • Providing opportunities for artists young and old
      • Bringing people together
      • Enhancing the quality of life


Mrinalini Sarabhai, D.Litt
Senior Lecturer, Founder - Darpana
Dancer, philosopher and activist, Mrinalini has been called the ‘high priestess of the dance’ for her purity of style and her bold experiments. She has toured the world and brought honour to India’s classical heritage since the late ‘40s. She is considered the mother of what is known as Indian contemporary dance today. A keen environmentalist, her love for trees has led her to constantly fight for their preservation and care. As a writer she has written plays, books on dance, and children’s stories.

Mallika Sarabhai, MBA, Ph.D
Senior Lecturer, Director – Darpana, DIPAC
A performer and creator with many talents, Mallika’s career has developed from being a young, internationally acclaimed, classical dancer and film personality, to being an activist and commentator on social issues. As an artist she celebrates positive reaffirmation of images of womanhood through dance, theatre and writing. As dancer, actress, choreographer, writer, and instigator of community projects she challenges audiences to sit up and think, to realign themselves to questions of ecology, the role of women, gender awareness, cultural atrophy and the very place of the arts in our society.


DIPAC: Darpana Institute for Performance, Arts and Cultural studies is an educational, non-profit organization, recognized by the Government of India and run under the Karmakshetra Educational Foundation, a Public Charitable Trust, registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act 1950. DIPAC is affiliated with the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts which has been a centre of excellence in the field of the performing arts since 1949. Darpana has increasingly worked with institutions, performing artists and companies across the world in using the arts for innovation and social change. Its partners include UNESCO, UNICEF, the Ford Foundation, the British Lotteries Commission, the MacArthur Foundation, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and UNFPA. Darpana also works extensively with non-governmental organizations across India and the world involved with developmental issues.