Pandit Birju Maharaj, a Kathak legend, died at his residence in Delhi in the early hours of Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to news agency PTI. He was 83 years old.
He was born on February 4, 1937 as Brij Mohan Nath Mishra, in a well-known family of Kathak dancers, and is the winner of the country’s second-highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan. The news comes only days after his nephew and student Pt Munna Shukla died at the age of 78 after a brief illness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the Kathak legend’s family and followers. “Deeply grieved by the loss of Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji, who brought Indian dance styles unique acclaim throughout the world,” PM Modi said on Twitter. His death is an irreparable loss to the whole art world. In this hour of sorrow, please accept my condolences to his family and followers.”
President Ram Nath Kovind dubbed the Kathak dancer’s death “the end of an era,” adding that his death “leaves a significant vacuum in the Indian music and cultural sphere.”
“A living inheritance of Indian culture has come to an end with the death of Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji, the world recognized master of Kathak dance,” Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said. My sincere sympathies go out to his family, art enthusiasts, and followers.”
During his lifetime, Pandit Birju Maharaj achieved many feats. He was most renowned as a Kathak dancer, but he was also a singer, poet, and painter. “I express in the greatest way I am inspired to, and am grateful to have been allowed to wear these varied hats,” he told The Indian Express last year. “I just view this as different interpretations of my creativity,” he continued. An artist conveys his or her deepest feelings via his or her creativity, whether it be dancing, music, or visual art forms. I express myself in the best way I’m inspired to and consider myself fortunate to be able to wear the hats of a dancer, singer, poet, and painter. It just comes easily to me.
When asked about his journey since his first performance at the age of seven, he stated, “It’s been an experience.” Every facet of my journey as a student, performer, and teacher has been a joy for me. Passing on your art form to eager pupils is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an artist.
“I have attempted to infuse mathematics and numbers into the dance style so that youngsters may readily relate to the tough subtleties of Kathak,” he said while describing how Kathak has evolved with age.