2016 - Bajirao Mastani
1964 - Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Dance - Kathak
Indian dancer Birju Maharaj is a master of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance, a leading exponent of the dance form. Born in the house of a prominent Kathak dancer, Jagannath Maharaj, the young Briju Maharaj was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and make a name for himself as one of the foremost dancers in the genre, in India. Brilliant from a young age, he began reciting complex tihais and tukras as a toddler. Recognizing his son’s potential, his father began training him. Birju Maharaj proved to be an enthusiastic learner who decided early on to dedicate his life to the development of the Kathak dance form. The untimely death of his father came as a massive blow to the boy. However, he continued to receive training from his equally talented uncles and began teaching dance at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi when he was just 13. He soon gained a reputation as a notable dance teacher and eventually became the Head of Faculty and director at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) from where he retired, in 1998. Following his retirement he opened his own dance school, Kalashram. He has also choreographed Kathak dance sequences in some Bollywood movies.
- Brijmohan Mishra, popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj was born on 4 February 1938, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India into a family of well-established Kathak dancers. His father, Jagannath Maharaj, popularly known as Acchan Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana, served as court dancer in Raigarh princely state. He descended from the legendary Maharaj family of Kathak dancers.Birju Maharaj fell in love with the art of dancing at a young age. He began performing as a child alongside his father, who he idolized. He often travelled with his father who performed at musical conferences all over India, and accompanied him to Kanpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Dehradun, Madhubani, Kolkata and Mumbai.A tragedy befell the family when his beloved father died when Birju was just nine years old. He then began training with his uncles, the well-known dance masters Shambhu and Lacchu Maharaj.Soon he developed a unique style of his own, blending elements belonging to both his uncles as well as those belonging to his father. He is believed to have inherited the precision of footwork and the play of the face and neck from his father, and the stylized fluidity of movement from his uncles.Career
- Birju Maharaj started teaching dance at the tender age of 13, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. Eventually he moved to the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi. After a few years, he began teaching at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) where he was Head of Faculty and director.He retired from the Kathak Kendra in 1998 and proceeded to open his own dance school, Kalashram. As a dance teacher he believes in continually learning new things. For him, classical dance is one of the ways to connect with the divine. Hence it is called a sadhana.He feels that a dancer who knows singing and has an adequate knowledge of musical instruments will greatly enrich his art. Meditation and yoga are also important for a dancer. The Kathak dance form especially needs a lot of breath control, strength and stamina.A renowned choreographer, he has also worked in Bollywood films. He composed the music, and sang, for two dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray's ‘Shatranj ke Khilari’ and has also choreographed Kathak dance sequences in ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ as well as ‘Umrao Jaan’, and ‘Bajirao Mastani’ directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.In addition to being a dancer and a choreographer, he is also an accomplished singer well-known for his renditions of thumris and dadras (forms of classical vocal music). He is also talented at playing the tabla, and the violin.Major Works
- Birju Maharaj is the leading exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance, and is the founder of the dance school Kalashram in Delhi which focuses on imparting training in the field of Kathak and associated disciplines. At the school he uses the traditional parameters to choreograph new presentations as he aspires to convey to the audience that even classical style can be very appealing, interesting and dignified.Awards & Achievements
- Birju Maharaj was honored with Padma Vibhushan in 1986.He is also the recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Kalidas Samman.In 2002, he received the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskaar.Personal Life & Legacy
- Birju Maharaj is the father of five children: three daughters and two sons. Three of his children, Mamta Maharaj, Deepak Maharaj and Jai Kishan Maharaj are also noted Kathak dancers in their own rights.
See the events in life of Birju Maharaj in Chronological Order