Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Legend Passes | Remembering Pandit Birju Maharaj

The demise of Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj has brought upon a wave of mourning. Condolences poured in from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.  

A Legend Passes | Remembering Pandit Birju Maharaj
Pandit Birju Maharaj. Getty Images.

Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj passed on Monday after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest. He was going to turn 84 next month, confirmed his granddaughter. A prominent face of Indian Kathak dancer, Birju Maharaja, fondly remembered as Maharaj ji, was an eminent artist on the global platform. From his contribution in the field of art to the Indian film industry, Maharaj ji’s death has brought upon a wave of mourning and grief. 

Maharaj ji died surrounded by his family and disciples.

Mourning his loss, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Expressing grief at the death of legendary Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that his demise is an irreparable loss to the world of art. He brought Indian dance a special recognition in the world, Modi said in a tweet condoling his death. Birju Maharaj died at his home here in the early hours of Monday, his granddaughter said. He would have been 84 next month.

Expressing grief, President Ram Nath Kovind said, "The demise of legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj marks the end of an era. It leaves a deep void in the Indian music and cultural space. He became an icon, making unparalleled contributions to popularise Kathak globally. condolences to his family and admirers."

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu expressed his condolences. "Deeply saddened by the passing away of the legendary Kathak dancer, Pandit Birju Maharaj. The world-renowned Kathak exponent with his unique style was an institution and an inspiration across the globe. His death is a huge loss to the world of performing arts. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members. Om Shanti!."

"Pandit Birju ji Maharaj was a doyen of India's art and culture. He popularised the Lucknow gharana of Kathak dance form around the world. Deeply pained by his demise. His passing away is a monumental loss to the world of performing arts. Condolences to his family and admirers,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the demise of renowned Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj, and said he will be remembered for his contribution to the field of Indian classical dance.

"Received the sad news of the demise of Kathak maestro Shri Birju Maharaj. My condolences to his family, friends and fans. His contribution to the field of Indian classical dance is unparalleled and he will be remembered for it," Gandhi said on Twitter.

Maharji ji’s contribution to the field of cinema has been prolific. He was closely associated with the world of cinema. One of the first Bollywood personalities to tweet his personal tribute to Pandit Birju Maharaj was the veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai.

Remembering the days when he was organising a college festival where Maharaj ji was performing, Ghai remembered how he "expressed a romantic conversation" between Lord Krishna and Radha with his eyes doing the talking.

"I learnt 'DANCE' means the body but the soul is in the eyes. That's why he was a Jagat Guru in Kathak," tweeted Ghai, who's back in the news for making his debut as music composer for the upcoming film '36 Farmhouse'.

Among the cultural personalities who mourned the passing of Maharaj ji was the sarod maestro, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Saheb, who tweeted that it marked the end of an era for Indian dance and Kathak.

"For me, it's been a personal loss," Khan Saheb wrote. "He was loved immensely by my family and his memories live in our hearts forever. The heavens will dance for him today and every day!" Along with his tweet, he carried a rare picture of a young Birju Maharaj playing the tabla to his sarod. Besides being a renowned dancer, Maharaj ji was a talented percussionist and was also well-known for being a Hindustani classical vocalist.

Maharaj ji, in fact, composed the music and sang for the two-period dance pieces in Satyajit Ray's historical drama 'Shatranj Ke Khiladi', starring Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffery and Amjad Ali Khan.

Describing Maharaj ji as "a true legend" and "Kathak exponent par excellence", the Bollywood veteran and Lok Sabha MP from Mathura, Hema Malini, tweeted, "His ghungroos were on his ankles till he breathed his last. I always admired and respected him as a giant of the medium of Kathak and will miss his presence on the firmament of dance."

Condolences have also poured in from the field of sports. Legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar took to Twitter and said, “Pandit Birju Maharaj took Kathak from India to the world and inspired several people to take up the art. I am saddened to hear about his demise. He will continue to live through his art & artists inspired by him. Deepest condolences to his family & Kathak lovers across the world.”

Birju Maharaj died at his home in Delhi at the age of 83. 

(with agency inputs)