Pandit Birju Maharaj is a leading exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India. He founded the Kalashram. He has toured extensively across the world and has given thousands of performances and held hundreds of workshops for Kathak students.
Life of Birju Maharaj
Pandit Birju Maharaj was originally born as Brijmohan Mishra on February 4, 1938 to Jagannath Maharaj, a noted Kathak exponent. Jagannath Maharaj served as court dancer in Raigarh princely state and is popularly known as Acchan Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana. Birju maharaj was trained by his uncles Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj and also by his father. Birju maharaj at the age of 7 gave his first recital. On 20 May 1947, when he was 9 years old his father passed away. After a few years of struggle, his family shifted to Delhi. Birju Maharaj has three daughters and two sons of whom Deepak Maharaj, Mamta Maharaj and Jai Kishan Maharaj are Kathak dancers and he also has a Grandson Tribhuwan Maharaj.
Career of Birju Maharaj
At the young age of thirteen, Birju Maharaj started teaching the dance form, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. He was also teacher at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and at the Kathak Kendra. He was the head of the faculty, and Director in Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi). He was retired in the year 1998 after which he opened his own dance school Kalashram in Delhi. Panditji has composed the music and sang for two dance sequences in Satyajit Ray's film “Shatranj ke Khilari” and choreographed the song “Kaahe Chhed Mohe” in the movie Devdas(2002).
Awards and Honours for Birju Maharaj
Birju Maharaj received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Kalidas Samman and also the Padma Vibhushan in 1986.He is also the recipient of the honorary Doctorate degrees from the Khairagarh University and Banaras Hindu University(Varanasi). He also received the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskaar in 2002, Bharat Muni Samma 2012, National Film Award for Best Choreography in Vishwaroopam.