Updated: January 17, 2022 10:35:32 am
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.”
भारतीय नृत्य कला को विश्वभर में विशिष्ट पहचान दिलाने वाले पंडित बिरजू महाराज जी के निधन से अत्यंत दुख हुआ है। उनका जाना संपूर्ण कला जगत के लिए एक अपूरणीय क्षति है। शोक की इस घड़ी में मेरी संवेदनाएं उनके परिजनों और प्रशंसकों के साथ हैं। ओम शांति! pic.twitter.com/PtqDkoe8kd
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— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 17, 2022
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”.
The demise of legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj marks the end of an era. It leaves a deep void in the Indian music and cultural space. He became an icon, making unparalleled contribution to popularise Kathak globally. Condolences to his family and admirers.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 17, 2022
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.”
कथक नृत्य के विश्व प्रख्यात गुरु पंडित बिरजू महाराज जी के निधन से भारतीय संस्कृति की एक जीवंत धरोहर का अवसान हुआ है। उनके परिजनों, कला प्रशंसकों और उनके शिष्यों के प्रति हार्दिक संवेदनाएं व्यक्त करता हूं। मेरी विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि! pic.twitter.com/LgqhyyxXj7
— Vice President of India (@VPSecretariat) January 17, 2022
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.”
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.”
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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