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Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj passes away at 83

The Padma Vibhushan awardee was 83 years old and died of a heart attack.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 17, 2022 10:35:32 am
Kathak dancer Pt Birju Maharaj performs on the last day of the Old Fort Dance festival at Purana Qila in 2015. (Express File Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj died at his home in Delhi in the early hours of Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to news agency PTI. He was 83.

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 family of Kathak dancers. The news comes just days after his nephew and disciple Pt Munna Shukla passed away following a brief illness at 78.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences to the family and fans of the Kathak legend. On Twitter, Modi wrote, “Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, who gave Indian dance forms a special recognition across the world. His passing is an irreparable loss to the entire world of art. My condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief.”

President Ram Nath Kovind called the demise of the Kathak dancer, “the end of an era,” adding that his passing away, “leaves a deep void in the Indian music and cultural space”.

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu stated, “A living heritage of Indian culture has come to an end with the death of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, the world famous guru of Kathak dance. My heartfelt condolences to his family, art fans and his disciples.”

Pandit Birju Maharaj donned several hats during his lifetime. While he was best known as a Kathak dancer, he was an equally prolific singer, poet and painter. During a chat with The Indian Express last year, he had said: “I express in the best way I feel inspired to, and am blessed to have been able to wear these different hats.” He added, “I just see this as different expressions of my art. An artiste expresses his deepest emotions through his art, be it dance, music or visual art forms. I express in the best way I feel inspired to and am blessed to have been able to wear these different hats of a dancer, singer, poet and painter. It just comes to me naturally and is effortless. I am just the channel through which all this flows.”

Kathak maestro Pt Birju Maharaj. (Express archive photo)

Speaking about his journey from when he performed for the first time at the age of seven, he had said, “It’s been an adventure. I have loved every aspect of my journey as a student, performer and teacher. Passing on your art form to passionate students is one of the most satisfying experiences for me as an artiste.”

Pandit Birju Maharaj with his students. (Express Archive)

While explaining how Kathak had adopted with age, he added: “I have tried to incorporate mathematics and numbers into the dance form so that children can easily connect to the difficult intricacies of Kathak.”

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