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Pandit Birju Maharaj, legendary Kathak dancer passes away at 83

Legendary Kathak dancer, Pandit Birju Maharaj passes away after suffering a heart attack. He was 83. He was at his home in Delhi. Brijmohan Mishra, fondly called Pandit-ji or Maharaj-ji by his students was one of India's best known artistes.

India TV Entertainment Desk Written by: India TV Entertainment Desk
New Delhi Updated on: January 17, 2022 9:34 IST
Brijmohan Mishra aka Pandit Birju Maharaj
Image Source : TWITTER

Brijmohan Mishra aka Pandit Birju Maharaj

Highlights

  • Birju Maharaj passed away after suffering a heart attack
  • Brijmohan Mishra, fondly called Pandit-ji or Maharaj-ji by his students
  • Birju Maharaj was the son of the exponent of the Lucknow gharana

Legendary Kathak dancer, Pandit Birju Maharaj passes away after suffering a heart attack. He was 83. He was at his home in Delhi. Brijmohan Mishra, fondly called Pandit-ji or Maharaj-ji by his students and followers, he was one of India's best known artistes. He was a recipient of the country's second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan. Maharaj ji, as he was popularly known, was said to be playing with his grandsons when his health unexpectedly deteriorated, requiring him to be rushed to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack. He died surrounded by his family and disciples.

They were playing ‘antakshari’ after dinner when he suddenly took ill, Ragini Maharaj told PTI.

He is survived by five children, three daughters and two sons, and five grandchildren.

He had been suffering from a kidney ailment and was under dialysis treatment for the last month due to high diabetes. He probably died of a cardiac arrest, his granddaughter said.

"He was with us when this happened. He had his dinner and we were playing ‘antakshari’ because he loved old music. He was lying down… and suddenly his breathing became uneven. We think it was cardiac arrest as he was also a heart patient. This happened between 12.15 and 12.30 am. It must have been just a minute or so. We rushed to the hospital but unfortunately, we could not save him. He died before reaching the hospital," Ragini said

Ragini, a Kathak dancer herself, said the only solace for the family is that he did not suffer too much in his last moments.

"Two of his disciples and his two granddaughters, my younger sister Yasyashashwini and me, were with him when this happened.
He was laughing and smiling in his last moments," she said.

Brijmohan Mishra, popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, was from the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India. He was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. His two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj are also patrons of the field. Birju Maharaj was also known for Hindustani classical music and as a vocalist.

He gave his first recital at the age of seven. On 20 May 1947, his father died when he was nine. 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. 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.