Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj dies at 83. 7 points on his incomparable journey

Legendary Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj died of a heart attack in the early hours of January 17. He was 83.

 |  3-minute read |   17-01-2022
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Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj died of a heart attack in the early hours of Monday, January 17. He was 83 years old. Pandit Birju Maharaj was under treatment for the past month. He experienced sudden breathlessness around 12.30 am, and was rushed to the hospital. Within 10 minutes of being taken to the hospital, he was declared dead.

The Kathak maestro’s death is a big loss to the country. He was a guru to many of today's Kathak experts. Fondly known as Pandit ji or Maharaj ji, Pandit Birju Maharaj made the Indian dance form Kathak world famous.

Here are 7 facts from his incomparable journey you need to know:

1. THE NUMEROUS AWARDS

Pandit Birju Maharaj was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award, in 1986. At the age of 28, he received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. He has also been felicitated with the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award and many more.

2. MORE THAN A KATHAK DANCER

The well-known Kathak dancer was a master in many fields. He was an excellent drummer and loved to play the tabla and naal. He was quite an expert at playing other musical instruments like sitar, sarod, violin and sarangi without any formal training.

Maharaj ji was also a great singer and had an excellent command over thumri, bhajan and ghazals.

He was also a poet. Some of his poetic works have been published in Brijshyam Kahe, Anubhuti and Anubhuti 2.

3. DESCENDENT OF THE MAHARAJ FAMILY

Pandit Birju Maharaj was born in the family of Kathak experts on January 4, 1938. He was the son of Jagannath Maharaj, popularly known as Acchan Maharaj, who was also a legendary Kathak dancer. Acchan Maharaj died on May 20, 1947, when Birju Maharaj was just 9 years old.

Birju Maharaj was trained by his father; and uncles Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj.

4. STARTED PERFORMING AT THE AGE OF 7

The Kathak maestro learnt the dance form at an early age. He gave his first performance at the age of seven. His first major solo performance was at Manmath Nath Ghosh's celebrations in Bengal.

Later, he performed on various international stages.

pandit-inside_011722122706.jpgPandit Birju Maharaj during a performance. Photo: Twitter

5. STARTED TEACHING AT 13

Birju Maharaj started teaching Kathak at the age of 13, in Delhi. His dance school Kalashram is also a famous Kathak institute in New Delhi.

6. A STORYTELLER

Birju Maharaj’s dance performances are popular for the engaging stories he told through them. His performances depicted incidents from his life. This kept his performance realistic and unique.

7. IN BOLLYWOOD

He choreographed a handful of Bollywood songs. Some of the famous ones are Kaahe Chhede Mohe from Devdas (2002) and Mohe Rang Do Laal from Bajirao Mastani (2015). He was honoured with the National Film Award for Best Choreography for Unnai Kaanaathu from Vishwaroopam in 2012. In 2016, he received the Filmfare Award for Best Choreography for Mohe Rang Do Laal.

As the news of his death broke, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Bollywood stars and many others mourned the loss.

Writer

Varsha Vats Varsha Vats @varshavats19

Varsha Vats believes in unbiased journalism, and loves writing on health, lifestyle, food, entertainment and anything other than politics. She is a Senior Sub editor at DailyO.

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