Birju Maharaj Biography

(Kathak Dancer)

Birthday: February 4, 1938 (Aquarius)

Born In: Varanasi

Indian dancer Birju Maharaj was 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 also choreographed Kathak dance sequences in some Bollywood movies.

Quick Facts

Indian Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: Brijmohan Mishra, Pandit Birju Maharaj

Died At Age: 83


father: Acchan Maharaj

mother: Amma ji Maharaj

children: Deepak Maharaj, Jaikishan Maharaj, Mamta Maharaj

Born Country: India

Choreographers Classical Dancers

Height: 5'4" (163 cm), 5'4" Males

Died on: January 16, 2022

place of death: Delhi

City: Varanasi, India

More Facts

awards: 2013 - National Film Award for Best Choreography - Vishwaroopam - Filmfare Award for Best Choreography
2016 - Bajirao Mastani
1964 - Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Dance - Kathak

  • 1

    What is the significance of Birju Maharaj in the world of Kathak dance?

    Birju Maharaj is a legendary Kathak dancer, choreographer, and teacher who played a pivotal role in popularizing and preserving the traditional Kathak dance form.

  • 2

    How did Birju Maharaj contribute to the promotion of Indian classical dance globally?

    Birju Maharaj traveled extensively around the world, conducting workshops, performances, and collaborations to promote Indian classical dance on an international platform. 

  • 3

    What are some notable works choreographed by Birju Maharaj?

    Birju Maharaj choreographed numerous dance sequences for Indian films, stage productions, and cultural events, showcasing his creative brilliance and mastery of Kathak dance.

  • 4

    How did Birju Maharaj influence the younger generation of dancers in India?

    Birju Maharaj's innovative approach to Kathak dance and his dedication to preserving tradition inspired a new wave of dancers in India to explore and push the boundaries of classical dance forms.

Childhood & Early Life
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.
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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 believed in continually learning new things. For him, classical dance was one of the ways to connect with the divine. Hence it is called a sadhana.

He was of the view 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 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 was also an accomplished singer well-known for his renditions of thumris and dadras (forms of classical vocal music). He was also talented at playing the tabla, and the violin.

Major Works

Birju Maharaj was the leading exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance, and was 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 used the traditional parameters to choreograph new presentations as he aspired 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 was 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 had 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.

Birju Maharaj died of a heart attack on on 17 January 2022, at the age of 83, at his residence in Delhi.

Facts About Birju Maharaj

Birju Maharaj was not only a talented Kathak dancer, but he was also an accomplished vocalist, composer, and choreographer.

He came from a prestigious lineage of Kathak dancers, with his family being renowned for their contributions to the art form for generations.

Birju Maharaj was known for his unique ability to seamlessly blend traditional Kathak techniques with innovative and contemporary elements in his performances.

In addition to his contributions to the world of dance, Birju Maharaj was also involved in various charitable initiatives and social causes, showing his commitment to using his talent for the greater good.

See the events in life of Birju Maharaj in Chronological Order

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