Pandit Birju Maharaj, the doyen of the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak, died at his home in Delhi in the early hours of Monday, his granddaughter said. He would have been 84 next month.
Maharaj-ji, as he was popularly known, died surrounded by his family and disciples. They were playing ‘antakshari’ after dinner when he suddenly took ill, Ragini Maharaj told news agency PTI. The Kathak exponent, one of India’s best-known artistes, had been suffering from a kidney ailment and was under dialysis treatment. He probably died of a cardiac arrest, his granddaughter said.
We took him to the hospital immediately but we could not save him, she said.
A recipient of the country’s second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he was born Brij Mohan Nath Mishra on February 4, 1937, in a well-known Kathak dancing family. The news comes just days after his nephew and disciple Pt Munna Shukla passed away following a brief illness at 78.
Last year, a book on his life, titled Nritya Samrat Pt. Birju Maharaj, was launched. The book is a compilation of 96 (22 in English and 70 in Hindi) short essays written by his disciples, associates, admirers and senior artistes, associates, and well-wishers from around the world. It has been put together by Nandkishore Kapote, a senior disciple of Birju Maharaj.
In his foreword, the veteran dancer-guru had said that the book is a delightful read since it contains many interesting anecdotes from his long journey in dance, along with rare photographs. The book reveals the extraordinary personality of Pt. Birju Maharaj. Prime disciple Saswati Sen speaks about his teaching style, while Janaki Patrik talks about how Maharaj not only gives attention to postures and movements but every little detail.
Mamta Maharaj, the first female dancer from the ‘Kalka-Bindadin’ family shares that he created productions that have enabled female performers to receive the same recognition as their male counterparts.
Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.