End of an Era: India Mourns the Demise of Legendary Kathak Dancer Birju Maharaj

© AP Photo / John MooreFILE - Indian classical Kathak dance guru Birju Maharaj teaches students at his studio in New Delhi on Sept. 26, 1997. Birju Maharaj, a legend of classical Indian dance and among the country’s most well-known performing artists, died early on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022
FILE - Indian classical Kathak dance guru Birju Maharaj teaches students at his studio in New Delhi on Sept. 26, 1997. Birju Maharaj, a legend of classical Indian dance and among the country’s most well-known performing artists, died early on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.01.2022
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Kathak legend Birju Maharaj, fondly called "Pandit ji" and "Maharaj ji", was one of the best known Indian dancers, an outstanding drummer, a singer par excellence, and a master storyteller. The recipient of India's second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he trained many superstars including Kamal Haasan, Madhuri Dixit and Deepika Padukone.
Indians woke up on Monday to the sad news of the demise of legendary Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj, who passed away on Sunday night at his home in Delhi at age 83.
The Kathak maestro, who hailed from a great family of Kathak dancers and helped popularise dance-drama, suffered a heart attack. He was already suffering from a kidney ailment and was thus undergoing dialysis treatment.

"He was under treatment for the past month. He had sudden breathlessness at around 12:15-12:30 am last night; we brought him to the hospital within 10 mins, but he passed away," Birju Maharaj's granddaughter Ragini Maharaj told Indian news agency ANI.

Born on 4 February, 1937, Birju Maharaj became an exponent of the 'Kalka-Bindadin Gharana' (renowned family of Kathak dancers) of Lucknow, state capital of Uttar Pradesh. He was trained from a very young age by his uncles -- Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj, and his father.
He popularised dance-dramas with his own unique style and was known for his perfect rhythm, expressive style and gestures.
His expertise in Kathak dancing won him the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, which is the highest Indian recognition given to artists by India's National Academy of music, dance and drama.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences on Monday.
Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj, Prime Minister Modi tweeted in Hindi, stating that his passing away has caused an "irreparable loss to the entire art world" and he "gave Indian dance form a unique recognition across the world... My condolences to his relatives and fans in this hour of sorrow."
Calling it an end of an era, several celebrities and famous personalities including singer Adnan Sami, producers Ashoke Pandit, Girish Johar and others took to social media and poured their condolences to his family and paid tribute to the dance maestro.
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