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Birju Maharaj Biography – Legendary Kathak dancer of the Era

Brij Mohan Nath Mishra, popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, was an exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India. He was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which includes his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj.

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Real Name: Brij Mohan Nath Mishra
Profession: The exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Kathak dance in India
Birthplace: Handia, United Provinces, British India
Famous as: Pandit Birju Maharaj
Age: 83 years

Brij Mohan Nath Mishra, (4 February 1938 – 17 January 2022), popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, was an exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Kathak dance in India. He was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which includes his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj. He also practiced Hindustani classical music and was a vocalist.

After working along with his uncle, Shambhu Maharaj at Bhartiya Kala Kendra, later the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, he remained head of the latter, for several years, till his retirement in 1998 when he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi.

Birju Maharaj Biography
Birju Maharaj Biography
Birju Maharaj Biography
Background information
Birth name Brij Mohan Nath Mishra
Born 4 February 1938
Handia, United Provinces, British India
Died 17 January 2022 (aged 83)
Delhi, India
Genres Indian classical
Occupation(s) Dancer, composer, singer
Years active 1951–2016
Website birjumaharaj-kalashram.com

Early life and background

Birju Maharaj was born into a Hindu Brahmin family in the house of Kathak exponent, Jagannath Maharaj, popularly known as Acchan Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana, who served as a court dancer in Raigarh princely state. Birju was trained by his uncles, Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj, and his father, and he gave his first recital at the age of seven. On 20 May 1947, his father died when he was nine.

Career

Maharaj started teaching the dance form at the age of thirteen, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. He then taught at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) where he was Head of Faculty, and director, retiring in 1998 after which he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi. He composed the music, and sang, for two dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari, and choreographed the song Kaahe Chhed Mohe from the 2002 film version of novella Devdas.

Death

Birju Maharaj passed away due to a heart attack on 17 January 2022 at the age of 83 at his residence in Delhi.

Birju Maharaj with PM Modi
Birju Maharaj with PM Modi

Awards and honors

  • 1964 – Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
  • 1986 – Padma Vibhushan
  • 1986 – Nritya Choodamani Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
  • 1987 – Kalidas Samman
  • 2002 – 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

Film Awards

  • 2012 – National Film Award for Best Choreography for Unnai Kaanaathu (Vishwaroopam)
  • 2016 – Filmfare Award for Best Choreography for Mohe Rang Do Laal (Bajirao Mastani)

 

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