The Sangeet Natak Akademi - India's national academy for music, dance and drama - is the first National Academy of the arts set-up by the Republic of India. It was created by a resolution of the (then) Ministry of Education, Government of India, dated 31 May 1952 notified in the Gazette of India of June 1952. The Akademi became functional the following year, with the appointment of its first Chairman, Dr P.V. Rajamannar, and the formation of its all-India council of representatives, the General Council. The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, inaugurated it on 28 January 1953 in a special function held in the Parliament House. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, then Union Minister for Education, in his opening address at the inauguration of the Akademi, said:

“India's precious heritage of music, drama and dance is one which we must cherish and develop. We must do so not only for our own sake but also as our contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind. Nowhere is it truer than in the field of art that to sustain means to create. Traditions cannot be preserved but can only be created afresh. It will be the aim of this Akademi to preserve our traditions by offering them an institutional form…” “In a democratic regime, the arts can derive their sustenance only from the people, and the state, as the organized manifestation of the people's will, must, therefore, undertake … maintenance and development [of arts] as one of [its] first responsibilities…”

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

The Akademi's charter of functions was expanded along the original lines in 1961, when the Sangeet Natak Akademi was reconstituted by the Government as a society and registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 (as amended in 1957). These functions are set down in the Akademi's Memorandum of Association, adopted at its registration as a society on 11 September 1961. Since its inception the Akademi has been functioning as the apex body of the performing arts in the country, preserving and promoting the vast intangible heritage of India's diverse culture expressed in the forms of music, dance and drama. In furtherance of its objectives the Akademi coordinates and collaborates with the governments and art academies of different States and Territories of the Union of India as also with major cultural institutions in the country. The Akademi establishes and looks after institutions and projects of national importance in the field of the performing arts. The National School of Drama, set up in 1959, was the first of their two national institutions of dance -- Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy in Imphal and Kathak Kendra (National Institute of Kathak Dance) in New Delhi - were set up in 1964 respectively. National Projects of Support to Kuttiyattam - the age-old Sanskrit theatre of Kerala - Chhau dances of eastern India and Sattriya traditions of Assam have been lauched subsequently. After ten years of intensive work under the Kutiyattam project, the UNESCO declared Kutiyattam as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in May 2001.It organizes performances of music, dance, and theatre. The Akademi Awards are the highest national recognition conferred on eminent artistes. The Akademi also confers Fellowships and Scholarship, their numbers being restricted to 30 living recipients. The Fellowship and Awards caries purse money of Rs. 3,00,000/- and Rs. 1,00,000/- respectively besides a shawl and Tamrapatra..

To subsidize the work of institutions engaged in teaching, performing or promoting music, dance, or theatre; the Akademi gives grants-in-aid for research, documentation, and publishing in the performing arts; organizes and subsidizes seminars and conferences of subject specialists; documents and records the performing arts for its audio-visual archive. The Akademi's audio-visual archive comprising audio/video tapes, photographs and films is the largest in the country and is extensively drawn upon by the scholars for research on the performing arts. The Akademi maintains a reference library consisting of books in English, Hindi and some regional languages. The Akademi has a gallery of musical instruments in Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, where more than 250 musical instruments are displayed. It also has a documentation unit, which has collected and recorded works of maestros in the field of music, dance and theatre on audio and video to help researchers in the field and a gallery of musical instruments; and publishes literature on relevant subjects on a small scale. As the apex body specializing in the performing arts of the country, the Akademi also renders advice and assistance to the Government of India in the task of formulating and implementing policies and programmes in the field. Additionally, the Akademi carries a part of the responsibilities of the state for fostering cultural contacts between various regions in India, and between India and the world.

The Sangeet Natak Akademi is presently an Autonomous Body of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and is fully funded by the Government for implementation of its schemes and programmes.

Aims and Objectives
• To co-ordinate the activities of regional or State Academies of music, dance and drama.
• To promote research in the fields of Indian music, dance and drama and for this purpose, to establish a library and museum, etc.
• To co-operate with such similar Academies as there may be and other institutions and associations for the furtherance of its objects and for the enrichment of Indian culture as a whole.
• To encourage the exchange of ideas and enrichment of techniques between the different regions in regard to the arts of music, dance and drama.
• To encourage the establishment of theatre centres, on the basis of regional languages, and co-operation among different theatre centers.
• To encourage the setting up of institutions providing training in the art of theatre, including instructions in actor's training, study of stage-craft and production of plays.
• To encourage and assist production of new plays by awarding prizes and distinctions.
• To publish literature on Indian music, dance and drama including reference works such as an illustrated dictionary or handbook of technical terms.
• To give recognition to and otherwise assist meritorious, theatrical organizations.
• To encourage the development of amateur dramatic activity, children's theatre, the open-air theatre and the rural theatre in its various forms.
• To revive and preserve folk music, folk dance and folk drama in different regions of the country and to encourage the development of community music, martial music and other types of music.
• To sponsor music, dance and drama festivals, seminars, conferences on an all-India basis and to encourage such regional festivals.
• To award prizes and distinctions and to give recognition to individual artistes for outstanding achievement in the fields of music, dance and drama.
• To take suitable steps for the maintenance of proper and adequate standards of education in music, dance and drama and with that object to organize research in the teaching of the said subjects.
• To foster cultural contacts between the different regions of the country and also with other countries in the fields of music, dance and drama.