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India’s legendary dancer Birju Maharaj dies at 83

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2022-01-17 13:31:23 BdST

Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj has died at his home in Delhi after suffering a heart attack at the age of 83, reports news broadcaster NDTV.

A recipient of the country's second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he was fondly called Pandit-ji or Maharaj-ji by his disciples and legions of followers.

According to reports, Birju Maharaj was playing with his grandsons late on Sunday night when his health deteriorated and he lost consciousness. He was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

"He was with us when this happened. He had his dinner and we were playing 'antakshari' because he loved old music. He was lying down... and suddenly his breathing became uneven. We think it was cardiac arrest as he was also a heart patient,” Birju Maharaj's granddaughter Ragini, a Kathak dancer herself, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

"This happened between 12.15 and 12.30 am. It must have been just a minute or so. We rushed to the hospital but unfortunately, we could not save him. He died before reaching the hospital."

"Two of his disciples and his two granddaughters, my younger sister Yasyashashwini and me, were with him when this happened. He was laughing and smiling to the end," she said.

The Kathak exponent had been suffering from a kidney ailment and was also undergoing dialysis treatment.

Birju Maharaj was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which included his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj.

The Kathak legend was also known for his drumming, playing a number of drums with ease and precision. He was especially fond of playing the Tabla and Naal, according to his official website.

Birju Maharaj was also experienced in a wide variety of singing styles, with a command over Thumri, Dadra, Bhajan and Ghazal.


He interlaced his performances with incidents from his life, narrated to captivate the audience. He also had something to say about day-to-day incidents, keeping people around him entertained with realistic imitations and vivid descriptions.

Condolences poured in as news of the death of the Kathak maestro, who would have been 84 on Feb 4, spread.

The death of Pandit Birju Maharaj marks the end of an era, President Ram Nath Kovind said, as he offered condolences to his family and admirers.

"The demise of legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj marks the end of an era. It leaves a deep void in the Indian music and cultural space. He became an icon, making unparalleled contributions to popularise Kathak globally. Condolences to his family and admirers," President Kovind tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his death is an "irreparable loss" to the entire art world.

"Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, who gave Indian dance a special recognition the world over. His passing is an irreparable loss to the entire art world. My condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief," the prime minister said.


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman described the artiste as a "legend of the performing arts".

"Extremely saddened by the news about the passing away of Legendary Kathak Dancer- Pandit Birju Maharaj ji. 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," singer Adnan Sami tweeted.

"India has lost a jewel," tweeted filmmaker Ashoke Pandit.