Birju Maharaj
Maharaj performing in Pune, April 2012
Maharaj performing in Pune, April 2012
Background information
Birth nameBrijmohan Nath Mishra
Born(1939-02-04)4 February 1939
Handia, United Provinces, British India
(present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died17 January 2022(2022-01-17) (aged 83)
Delhi, India
GenresIndian classical
Years active1951–2016
Nationality (legal)Indian

Pandit Birju Maharaj (born Brijmohan Nath Mishra; 4 February 1938 – 17 January 2022) was an Indian dancer, composer, singer, and exponent of the Lucknow "Kalka-Bindadin" Gharana of Kathak dance in India. He was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which includes his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj. He also practised Hindustani classical music and was a vocalist.[1] After working along with his uncle, Shambhu Maharaj at Bhartiya Kala Kendra, later the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, he remained head of the latter, for several years, until his retirement in 1998 when he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi.[2]

Birju Maharaj was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor, in 1986.

Early life

Maharaj was born Brijmohan Nath Mishra, on 4 February 1938[3] into a Hindu Brahmin[4][5] family at Handia of Allahabad district. His father was the Kathak exponent, Jagannath Maharaj, popularly known as Acchan Maharaj of Lucknow gharana and the Kalka-Bindadin family in Lucknow.[6][7] His father served as the court dancer in Raigarh princely state.[6] Maharaj started dancing early at the age of four, and was trained by his uncles, Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj and his father. He started his performances first at his father's concerts before performing solo at the age of seven in West Bengal.[7][8] His father died when Maharaj was nine.[7]


Maharaj started teaching the dance form at the age of thirteen, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. He then taught at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) where he was Head of Faculty, and director, retiring in 1998[9] after which he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi.[7]

In addition to performing the Kathak dance form, he also brought along knowledge of Hindustani classical music and percussion instruments. He was noted to have been able to sing the thumri while dancing to it, and also playing instruments like the tabla and the dholak. His Kathak performances in addition to mythological stories had contemporary elements including stories from daily life and social issues being communicated by way of the dance.[7] His ginti ki tihaais (transl. a charged and percussive phrase, repeated thrice to end with explosive effect) were noted to have been studied by Kathak students. He collaborated with other artists including the tabla player Zakir Hussain, and singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra.[7] Some of his students included Priti Singh, Saswati Sen, Aditi Mangaldas, and Nisha Mahajan.[7]

Maharaj also choreographed and composed music for many Indian movies. Some of the performances that he choreographed included for Saswati Sen in Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977), Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Devdas (2002) and Dedh Ishqiya (2014), Kamal Haasan in Vishwaroopam (2012), Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Alia Bhatt in Kalank (2019).[7][10] His choreography for Kamal Hassan in Vishwaroopam won him the National Film Award for Best Choreography in 2012,[11] while his choreography for Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani won him a Filmfare Award for Best Choreography in 2016.[12]

Maharaj was one of the youngest artists to receive the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, when he received the award at the age of 28. He also received the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, in 1986.[7][13]

Personal life

Maharaj was married and had five children[13] (2 sons and 3 daughters). In later life, Maharaj had kidney disease and diabetes, and received dialysis.[14] He died from a heart attack at his residence in Delhi, on 16 January 2022, at age 83.[15]


After his death, several Kathak performers accused Maharaj of sexual abuse. Some of the accusers were minors at the time of the alleged abuse.[16][17][18][19]

Awards and honours


See also


  1. ^ Kaui, Banotsarg-Boghaz (2002). Subodh Kapoor (ed.). The Indian encyclopaedia: biographical, historical, religious, administrative, ethnological, commercial and scientific. Volume 3. Genesis Publishing. p. 198. ISBN 81-7755-257-0.
  2. ^ Massey, p. 29
  3. ^ "How Pandit Birju Maharaj always stayed alive to sights, sounds, and sentiments of the present". Firstpost. 18 January 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Dancing her way through life & grooming others too". 29 April 2006.
  5. ^ "Pt. Birju Maharaj". Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  6. ^ a b "All Time Great Classical Dancers - Achchan Maharaj". Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Pt Birju Maharaj, storyteller who blurred gender norms to become one of the foremost masters of Kathak, passes away at 83". The Indian Express. 18 January 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  8. ^ Buddhiraja, Sunita. "Birju Maharaj – Kathak personified". Deccan Herald. Archived from the original on 10 December 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  9. ^ Bhattacharya, Santwana. "Birju Maharaj retires". Indian Express. Archived from the original on 1 April 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  10. ^ "What Birju Maharaj said about directing 'favourite' Madhuri Dixit, Kamal Haasan". The Indian Express. 17 January 2022. Retrieved 18 February 2023.
  11. ^ a b "60th National Film Awards Announced" (PDF) (Press release). Press Information Bureau (PIB), India. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Birju Maharaj Awards: List of awards and nominations received by Birju Maharaj | Times of India Entertainment". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  13. ^ a b "Pandit Birju Maharaj passes away: A pictorial tribute to the legendary Kathak maestro". The Indian Express. 17 January 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  14. ^ PTI (17 January 2022). "Birju Maharaj, legendary Kathak dancer, dies at 84". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Pandit Birju Maharaj, Legendary Kathak Dancer, Dies At 84". Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  16. ^ Joshi, Prajakta (27 January 2022). "Indie Journal | Several sexual harassment allegations rock the world of Kathak". IndieJournal. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  17. ^ "Pandit Birju Maharaj MeToo Allegations Surface On Social Media Post His Death". SheThePeople.TV. 25 January 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  18. ^ Srikanth, Kavya (21 January 2022). "The Doyen of Kathak, Pandit Birju Maharaj". The Juggernaut. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  19. ^ "Why did #MeToo not reach the Indian classical arts?". 30 January 2022. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Dancer". Official website. Retrieved 22 July 2019.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Nritya Choodamani Awardees List". Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d "Pandit Birju Maharaj". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  23. ^ "Hema Malini selected for Bharat Muni Samman – Hindustan Times". 2012. Archived from the original on 13 December 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012. The earlier recipients are Thankamani Kutty, Pandit Birju Maharaj,
  24. ^ "Hema Malini receives Bharat Muni Samman: Wonder Woman – Who are you today?". 2012. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2012. The earlier recipients are Thankamani Kutty (Bharatanatyam), Pandit Birju Maharaj (kathak),
  25. ^ [bare URL] Newsmakers Achievers’ Awards: OneIndia special correspondent adjudged 'best journalist’, Anusha, (May 3, 2017)