New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) The living legend of Kathak, Birju Maharaj, who had been diagnosed with kidney disease a few days ago and put on dialysis, died at his home here late on Sunday. He was 83.
Maharaj ji, as he was popularly known, was said to be playing with his grandsons when his health unexpectedly deteriorated, requiring him to be rushed to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack.
A recipient of the country's second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, Maharaj ji was also a lifelong Kathak guru as well as a talented Hindustani classical singer and percussionist.
He will be remembered by cinema buffs for the two period dance sequences in Satyajit Ray's historical drama 'Shatranj Ke Khiladi' (for which he sang as well) and for the 'Kaahe Chhed Mohe' track picturised on Madhuri Dixit in the 2002 version of 'Devdas'.
Maharaj ji won the National Award for choreographing 'Unnai Kaanadhu Naan' in the Kamal Haasan multi-lingual megahit 'Vishwaroopam' and the Filmfare Awards for the Bajirao Mastani number 'Mohe Rang Do Laal'.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his heartfelt condolences over Twitter.
भारतीय नृत्य कला को विश्वभर में विशिष्ट पहचान दिलाने वाले पंडित बिरजू महाराज जी के निधन से अत्यंत दुख हुआ है। उनका जाना संपूर्ण कला जगत के लिए एक अपूरणीय क्षति है। शोक की इस घड़ी में मेरी संवेदनाएं उनके परिजनों और प्रशंसकों के साथ हैं। ओम शांति! pic.twitter.com/PtqDkoe8kd— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 17, 2022
Adnan Sami, one of the first artistes to pay his tributes to the doyen of Kathak over social media.
Extremely saddened by the news about the passing away of Legendary Kathak Dancer- Pandit Birju Maharaj ji.— Adnan Sami (@AdnanSamiLive) January 16, 2022
We have lost an unparalleled institution in the field of the performing arts. He has influenced many generations through his genius.
May he rest in peace.🙏🖤#BirjuMaharaj pic.twitter.com/YpJZEeuFjH
Another early tribute came from Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who tweeted:
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.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) January 17, 2022
Deeply pained by his demise. His passing away is a monumental loss to the world of performing arts. Condolences to his family and admirers.
Dream Hema Malini also expressed her sentiments over Twitter over the iconic Kathak dancer's demise.
The nation mourns the passing of a true legend, Shri Birju Maharaj,Kathak exponent par excellence. 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 & will miss his presence on the firmament of dance🙏 pic.twitter.com/Wz0VLGDQPW— Hema Malini (@dreamgirlhema) January 17, 2022
Birju Maharaj was the son of the exponent of the Lucknow gharana, Jagannath Maharaj, better known as Acchan Maharaj, whom he lost when he was just nine. His uncles were the renowned Shambhu Maharaj and Lacchu Maharaj.
He taught at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Kathak Kendra, both in Delhi, from where he retired as director in 1998.