Kathak's living legend, Pandit Birju Maharaj, passes away at 83
New Delhi, January 17, 2022
Pandit Birju Maharaj, the living legend of Kathak, who had been diagnosed with kidney disease a few days ago and put on dialysis, died here late on Sunday.
He was 83.
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.
A recipient of the country's second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, Maharaj ji was also a lifelong Kathak guru as well as a talented Hindustani classical singer and percussionist.
He will be remembered by cinema buffs for the two period dance sequences in Satyajit Ray's historical drama "Shatranj Ke Khiladi" (for which he sang as well) and for the "Kaahe Chhed Mohe" track picturised on Madhuri Dixit in the 2002 version of "Devdas".
Maharaj ji won the National Award for choreographing "Unnai Kaanadhu Naan" in the Kamal Haasan multi-lingual megahit "Vishwaroopam" and the Filmfare Award for the Bajirao Mastani number "Mohe Rang Do Laal".
Birju Maharaj was the son of the exponent of the Lucknow gharana, Jagannath Maharaj, better known as Acchan Maharaj, whom he lost when he was just nine. His uncles were the renowned Shambhu Maharaj and Lacchu Maharaj.
He taught at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Kathak Kendra, both in Delhi, from where he retired as director in 1998.