Born at Cuttack, Orissa, in 1937, into an artistically inclined family, Dr Minati Mishra was introduced to dance and music at a very early age, when she started lessons in classical singing, esraj playing and folkdance.
After she saw a performance in 1945 by Laxmipriya Devi—later to wed Kelucharan Mohapatra—who used to dance what was then known as Oriya dance, a combination of Mahari and Gotipua, as a part of a theatre act, Minati was inspired to take up dancing.
She started taking lessons from Ajit Ghosh and 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 Kabichandra Kalicharan Patnaik. Kabichandra was known for his pioneering in-depth research on Oriya dance styles and also owned the Orissa Theatre. Later, in 1950 Minati started training under KelucharanMohapatra.
In 1954, she received a scholarship from the Government of Orissa to learn Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra in Madras, under Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, Sarada Hoffman and Peria Sarada. In 1955 she started training under Guru Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai and Guru Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. In 1956,Minati did her arangetram in Bharatanatyam, and received the title of Natya Kalabhushanam. She came back to Orissa and continued her dancing. In the next three years she gave performances in several major cities in India including Madras, Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Bombay.
In 1959, invited by the International Photographic Association, she performed at Zurich, Luzern, Geneva and Winterthur in Switzerland. In 1963, she performed at the Berlin Film Festival, in the presence of eminent actors Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quine and Cary Grant.
Minati Mishra received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Indology in 1962 from the Phillip University in Marburg, Germany, for her research work on the Natyasastra, after doing her entire research in Sanskrit. She was appointed the principal of the Utkal Sangeet Vidyalaya at Bhubaneswar, where she taught Odissi in the dance department.
Minati married Nityananda Mishra, an engineer by profession, in 1964.She acted in four Oriya movies: Surja Mukhi, Arundhuti, Jiban Sathi and Sadhana. All four received the President’s award for best regional cinema. Besides her stint in cinema, she worked as an “A” Grade Radio Drama artist at AIR as well. Unknown to many, Minati also received the award Sangeet Prabhakar in Hindutani vocal music. She received the Padma Shri award in 2012.