A recipient of the country’s second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he was born Brij Mohan Nath Mishra on February 4, 1937, in a well-known family of Kathak dancers. The news comes just days after his nephew and disciple Pt Munna Shukla passed away following a brief illness at 78.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences to the family and fans of the Kathak legend. On Twitter, Modi wrote, “Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, who gave Indian dance forms a special recognition across the world. His passing is an irreparable loss to the entire world of art. My condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief.”
Pandit Birju Maharaj donned several hats during his lifetime. While he was best known as a Kathak dancer, he was an equally prolific singer, poet and painter. During a chat with The sources last year, he had said: “I express in the best way I feel inspired to, and am blessed to have been able to wear these different hats.” He added, “I just see this as different expressions of my art. An artiste expresses his deepest emotions through his art, be it dance, music or visual art forms. I express in the best way I feel inspired to and am blessed to have been able to wear these different hats of a dancer, singer, poet and painter. It just comes to me naturally and is effortless. I am just the channel through which all this flows.”
Speaking about his journey from when he performed for the first time at the age of seven, he had said, “It’s been an adventure. I have loved every aspect of my journey as a student, performer and teacher. Passing on your art form to passionate students is one of the most satisfying experiences for me as an artiste.”
While explaining how Kathak had adopted with age, he added: “I have tried to incorporate mathematics and numbers into the dance form so that children can easily connect to the difficult intricacies of Kathak.”