Pandit Birju Maharaj is a renowned classical dancer of India and one of the leading exponents of Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak. Born on 4th February, 1938 as Brij Mohan Nath Mishra, he hails from the legendary Maharaj family of Kathak dancers of Lucknow and is the son of Acchan Maharaj. His uncles Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj are also renowned Kathak Dancers. Apart from being a dynamic Kathak dancer, he is also known to have excellent grasp over Hindustani classical music and is an accomplished vocalist. Pandit Birju Maharaj uplifted the kathak to great heights with his Kathak dance dramas. Over the years, he has traveled widely and given thousands of performances and held hundreds of workshops for kathak students. Read this biography to know more about him.
Early Life :
Birju Maharaj was born in the house of celebrated Kathak enthusiast, Jagannath Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana. His father Achhan Maharaj passed on his legacy to young Birju. The fundamentals of Kathak learnt by Birju from his father built his strong foundation in the art. As a young boy, Birju Maharaj accompanied his father and uncles to their performances and thus grew up in an environment that eventually pushed him to become a great dancer. His first public performance was at the age of seven. Unfortunately, his father passed away when he was just nine years old. His family moved to Delhi after struggling in Lucknow for many years. Once in Delhi, he started teaching Kathak at the Sangeet Bharti at a tender age of just 13. He taught for many years at Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi and Kathak Kendra. He was made the Head of Faculty and Director there, from where he retired in the year 1998.
Birju Maharaj had a dream career. After teaching many years in Bharatiya Kala Kendra and heading it, he opened his own academy called Kalashram. Pandit Birju Maharaj is not just a flawless dancer, but a fabulous singer too and has mastered Hindustani classical music as well. It is due to his constant efforts that Kathak reached new heights of popularity and acceptance among a wider audience in the country. He has choreographed many Kathak dance dramas and has performed in numerous concerts. He has traveled extensively and has performed in many countries.
Furthermore, he has showed his talent by choreographing dance sequences for popular movies like Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Devdas, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Gadar, etc. He has toured all over the world and has performed in countries like USSR, USA, Japan, UAE, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Burma, Ceylon, and so on. He has trained many young students and has taken Kathak to new heights due to his determination and hard work. He has been well acclaimed in Bollywood and one of his famous students is Madhuri Dixit and the famous choreographer Saroj Khan. Maharaj Birju Maharaj retired at the age of 73 in the year 1998.
Birju Maharaj’s dance academy ‘Kalashram’ is a well known dance school where not only Kathak, but other art forms like vocal and instrumental music, yoga, painting, Sanskrit, dramatics, stagecraft etc are also taught. The classrooms, practice halls and amphitheater and other structures of Kalarshram is built in a way that gives a rural ambience in midst of a urban lifestyle. The environment is awe inspiring and evokes creativity in the students. Maharaj believes that his academy will not only produce talented Kathak dancers, but modest and socially responsible members of society.
Personal Life :
Pandit Birju Maharaj has three daughters and two sons, of whom Mamta Maharaj, Deepak Maharaj and Jai Kishan Maharaj are renowned Kathak dancers He also has a Grandson Tribhuwan Maharaj continues the legend of Maharaj family of Kathak dancers.