Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj no more
Kathak legend and Padma Vibhushan awardee Pandit Birju Maharaj died at his home in Delhi late Sunday, after suffering from a massive heart attack.
The legendary dancer, who would have been 84 next month, breathed his last in the presence of his family and disciples at his residence, said his granddaughter, Ragini Maharaj.
Reportedly, Maharaj was playing with his grandsons on Sunday night when he suddenly become unconscious, and was rushed to the hospital.
One of India's best known artistes, Birju Maharaj was suffering from a kidney ailment and was undergoing dialysis.
A recipient of the country's second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he was born as Brijmohan 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."
Besides father Achchan Maharaj and uncles Shambhu and Lachchu Maharaj, Birju Maharaj was influenced by Bindadeen Maharaj.
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.
The Kathak legend was also a superb percussionist, playing nearly all percussions with ease and precision; he was especially fond of playing the Tabla and Naal, according to his official website.
Birju Maharaj was also a singer par excellence, having command over Thumri, Dadra, Bhajan and Ghazal.
A master storyteller, he interlaced his performances with incidents from his life, narrated to captivate the audience. Also being keenly observant, he always had something to say about day-to-day incidents, keeping people around him entertained with realistic imitations and vivid descriptions.
He began performing as a child alongside his father and became a Guru (Maharaj) when he was still in his teens. He also performed in the durbar of Rampur (Uttar Pradesh) Nawab.
By the time he was 28, Birju Maharaj's mastery of Kathak earned him the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Birju Maharaj developed his own unique style. He was also known as a brilliant choreographer and helped popularise dance-dramas.