Pandit Birju Maharaj, whose real name was Brijmohan Nath Mishra (1938–2022). He was an iconic figure in Indian classical dance, especially for his expertise in the Kathak style. He was a member of the famous Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana, a family of Kathak dancers. Let’s look at the life of the famous Kathak dancer, singer, and composer.
Early Life: Birth and Family
He was born 4 feb 1938 in Handia, Uttar Pradesh, into a deeply rooted Kathak family. His parent’s names were Acchan Maharaj and Amma ji Maharaj. His Father, Acchan Maharaj, was a renowned Kathak exponent. Also, his uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj trained him. Following his father’s passing when he was nine. Also, He Started performing at a young age, showcasing his talent from the age of four.
Birju Maharaj was already a dance teacher at Sangeet Bharti in Delhi at the age of 13. His dedication and mastery saw him win the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award at the young age of 28. He taught at prestigious institutions like Bharatiya Kala Kendra and Kathak Kendra, eventually opening his school, Kalashram, in 1998. Not just a dancer, he was also a musician, singing Thumri and playing instruments like the tabla and dholak, often incorporating them into his performances. His expressive abhinaya (gesture language) and rhythmic precision set him apart. He performed extensively within India and abroad, including for foreign dignitaries. He choreographed memorable dance sequences in films like Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari, bringing Kathak to wider audiences.
Award and Honors
Throughout his remarkable career, Birju Maharaj, an Indian Kathak dancer, choreographer, singer, and teacher, was recognized with numerous awards and honors. The following list includes a few of his most important honors and the years in which they were given:
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
- Padma Vibhushan
- Nritya Choodamani Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
- Kalidas Samman
- Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar
- Honorary doctorate from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya
- Honorary doctorate from Banaras Hindu University
- Sangam Kala Award
- Bharat Muni Sammaan
- Andhra Ratna
- Nritya Vilas Award
- Adharshila Shikhar Samman
- Soviet Land Nehru Award
- National Nritya Shiromani Award
- Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award
- National Film Award for Best Choreography
- Filmfare Award for Best Choreography
Birju Maharaj: Death
On January 17, 2022, Birju Maharaj passed away at the age of 83 after a heart attack. When he died, his family and supporters were there at his Delhi residence. His family and followers
The only comfort the family has is that he did not experience a great deal of suffering in his final hours. Her granddaughter Ragini Maharaj said that in his final moments, he was smiling and laughing.
Among the most renowned Kathak dancers of all time was Birju Maharaj. He was renowned for his expressive abhinaya, rhythmic and footwork mastery, and dexterity. He also created the choreography for a number of Kathak dances, such as the well-known dance-drama “Kathak: The Dance of Love.”
Numerous honours have fallen upon Birju Maharaj, including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. In addition, he was a Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow.
At the age of 83, Birju Maharaj passed away on January 17, 2022. He was a renowned Kathak dancer who made a significant contribution to the genre.