Brijmohan Mishra, popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, is an exponent of the Handia (Rikhipur), Allahabad Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India. Even though dancing is his first love, he practices Hindustani classical music and is a vocalist.
Pandit Birju Maharaj Early Life
Born on February 4, 1938, Birju Maharaj is a descendant of the legendary Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. His father Acchan Maharaj (Jagannath Maharaj) belong to Lucknow Gharana. Acchan Maharaj served as court dancer in Raigarh princely state.
He gave his first recital at the age of seven. He studied with his father until the latter’s death in 1947. Later he took training in Kathak under the guidance of his uncles Lacchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj.
Birju Maharaj draws together in his own dance style. He learned from his father he claims to have inherited the suppleness of the torso and chest. He also incorporated in his dance the play of the neck, head, and face, the precision of the footwork, and the fullness of movement.
Later he incorporated stylised chals of the gat and the fluidity of movement from Lacchu Maharaj. He adopted the power of movement and the force needed to dance paran from Shambhu Maharaj.
Pandit Birju Maharaj Career
Birju Maharaj gave his first performance at the young age of seven at Lucknow and after that there was no looking back.
He supported of the Lucknow gharana by mixing a suitably old-world charm and his personal simplicity endear him to everyone. But the magic comes from within, filtered through an astounding talent and decades of hard work.
Birju Maharaj has mastered many avatars— he can be a shy gopi, waiting for her lover; he can be a naughty child, stealing butter; he can become valiant warrior-king, vanquishing his enemies in battle.
Not only in India, he is familiarly known abroad, nearly all over the world. He has extensively toured across the globe, which includes USSR, USA, Japan, UAE, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Burma (Myanmar), Sri Lanka, etc. for performances as well as lecture-demonstrations.
Besides being a superb dancer, he is also gifted with a number of other qualities which add to his artistic career. He is widely acclaimed not only as a performer but also as an inspiring ‘Guru’ – teacher. He successfully trained numerous students in India and abroad.
Birju Maharaj taught at Sangeet Bharati, Bharatiya Kala Kendra and headed the teaching faculty, Kathak Kendra in Delhi till his retirement in 1998.
In 1998, he opened his own dance school, Kalashram in New Delhi.
Pandit Birju Maharaj Achievement
Birju Maharaj is a wonderful singer having command over, Thumri, Dadra, Bhajan and Ghazals. He is also a superb drummer, playing nearly all drums with ease and precision.
He has given a new dimension to Kathak by experimenting this technique in the application of dance-dramas, which has become a very successful medium for mass propagation.
As a choreographer, he is the finest in the country today. His bold and intellectual compositions in traditional themes are brilliant, whereas his contemporary works are also refreshing in concept, crisp and entertaining.
Birju Maharaj directed and composed music and sung playback for two classical dance sequences in the film, ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi’ directed by Satyajit Ray.
Pandit Birju Maharaj Award
Birju Maharaj made his mark in the arena when he received the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi award at the age of 28.
He is also a recipient of the country’s second highest civilian award-Padma Vibhushan. Banaras Hindu University, as well as Khairagarh University conferred upon him with the Honorary Doctorate degrees.
He was the recipient of the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar in 2002. Later he received the National Film Award for Best Choreography in Vishwaroopam in 2012. He received Filmfare Award for Best Choreography in Bajirao Mastani in 2016.