The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, July 2, 2022

Birju Maharaj, virtuoso of classical Indian dance, dies at 83
Birju Maharaj performs at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York, Oct. 13, 2012. Maharaj, who was revered in India as an exponent of one of its most ancient and established classical dance forms, and who choreographed steps for Bollywood hits and Indian movie classics by directors like Satyajit Ray, died on Jan. 16, 2022, in New Delhi. He was 83. Julieta Cervantes/The New York Times.

by Alastair Macaulay

NEW YORK, NY.- Birju Maharaj, who was revered in India as an exponent of one of its most ancient and established classical dance forms, and who choreographed steps for Bollywood hits and Indian movie classics by directors like Satyajit Ray, died Jan. 16 in New Delhi. He was 83.

The cause appeared to be cardiac arrest while he was undergoing dialysis, a granddaughter, Ragini Maharaj, told the news agency Press Trust of India.

Birju Maharaj performed in the Kathak tradition, which has roots more than 2,000 years old, according to some evidence. Kathak dance was performed in royal courts across the land and found favor among Hindu and Muslim cultures. It is one of eight classical dance genres in India, each largely regionally based and each with its own sophisticated and diverse vocabulary.

Kathak’s lineages were associated with three cities in the central Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow and Banares) and Rajasthan (Jaipur). Maharaj was raised in a tradition from Lucknow, a form that has become broadly popular.

Kathak is the tradition most interconnected with live music. The dancers, using steps and facial expressions, tell a story, often inspired by ancient Indian epics. But it is also an art of virtuosic, elaborately rhythmic footwork, often with tight rhythmic patterns that suddenly come to a sensational stop on the beat.

Maharaj’s eyes, mouth, arm gestures and footwork were all part of the brilliant and charming skill with which he made Kathak renowned. Like several other Indian genres, Kathak employs anklets bearing dozens of tiny bells that jangle with the steps of bare feet; the meters sounded by Maharaj’s anklets were often astounding.

Brij Mohan Nath Mishra was born Feb. 4, 1938, into the seventh generation of a distinguished Kathak family, known as Maharaj for their mastery of the art.

He received his first dance training from his father, Jagannath Maharaj (popularly known as Acchan Maharaj), who had been the court dancer in the princely state of Rajgarh and who became his son’s guru and fellow performer. The British still ruled India when Birju Maharaj, at age 7, gave his first public performance.

Two years later, his father died, and two of Birju Maharaj’s uncles — Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj — continued his dance education. When India became independent in 1947, Kathak achieved fresh glory, with Birju Maharaj as a leading exponent.

He moved to New Delhi as a boy. At 13, he began teaching Kathak at the Sangeet Bharati, an important school of performing arts. By his 20s he was nationally known as one of his country’s great dancers. He also practiced and performed Hindustani vocal music, composed new music, played multiple musical instruments, wrote poetry and painted.

He went on to teach, with his uncle Shambhu Maharaj, at dance schools in New Delhi, opening his own school, Kalashram, in 1998.

Birju Maharaj married Annapuran Devi in 1956. They had three daughters, Kavita, Anita and Mamta, and two sons, Jaikishan and Deepak. Both his sons and his daughter Mamta are leading figures in Kathak practice. Maharaj’s wife died in 2008. A complete list of survivors was unavailable.

Early in his career, he took part in the cultural troupes sent abroad by the Indian government. When full-length mythological and historical dance dramas became standard in the 1970s, he choreographed a number of them, some with Mughal themes. In the 1980s, he focused on abstract, entirely rhythmic compositions. Humor and sensitivity became part of his storytelling, along with mathematics and numerology.

He choreographed a number of dances for Indian films, starting with Ray’s classic “The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khiladi)” (1977). He also made some famous dance numbers in hit Bollywood films like “Devdas” (2002) and “Dedh Ishqiya” (2014).

Maharaj gave Kathak dance lessons to movie star Deepika Padukone for the film “Bajirao Mastani” (2015). He won a Filmfare Award, a major Indian movie industry accolade, for best choreography for the number “Mohe Rang Do Laal” in that movie.

Widely known as Pandit Birju Maharaj — Pandit refers to skill, scholarship and authority — he danced in Europe and the United States, visiting Washington in 2014 and New York in 2019.

Into at least his late 70s, Maharaj showed how Kathak could display brilliant, jazzlike interplay with its musical accompaniment while remaining an art of communication and playfulness. He was devoted to his musicians, always traveling with them. They would often tease him in performance with skeins of rhythmic complexity to which he would gleefully rise.

He also showed that dance was part of something larger: a response to nature and to divinity.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

February 4, 2022

What museums don't reveal about religious art

Leon Kossoff: Looking at life with a loaded brush

A Venice Biennale informed by the pandemic will spotlight women

New life for the Wyeth legacy 5 miles out to sea

Clad in a Kimono, a painter of warriors returns to Downtown New York

A struggling San Francisco art school will merge with a university

Yves Saint Laurent takes Paris

Pace partners with Kayne Griffin to open West Coast flagship in Los Angeles in April 2022

Theaster Gates design reveled for Serpentine Pavilion 2022

Nationalmuseum acquires Ditlev Blunck painting

Exhibition at Hauser & Wirth focuses on artists whose work approaches the body and anatomy in complex ways

Monica Vitti, 'queen of Italian cinema,' dies at 90

Art school looked like a lot of fun in the '90s

Birju Maharaj, virtuoso of classical Indian dance, dies at 83

Everard to auction fashions from estate of beloved Southern humorist Jeanne Robertson on Feb. 22

Danai Gurira will star as Richard III at Shakespeare in the Park

Extremely rare Gold 'Leopard' coin from the reign of Edward III to be sold by Dix Noonan Webb

Dolly Parton, Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest are Rock Hall nominees

Robert Colescott masterpiece leads Bonhams Frieze Week sale

Naminapu Maymuru-White: Milngiyawuy, The River of Heaven and Earth opens at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney

Stephanie Mach to join the Peabody Museum as new Curator of North American Ethnographic Collections

'A Powerful Pantheon: Mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome' comes to Reading Public Museum

Aspen Art Museum launches digital guide with Bloomberg Connects app

Toledo Museum of Art has reinstalled its Cloister Gallery to broaden narrative of art of the Middle Ages

What is Ethereum's growth going to look like in 2022?

The best websites to play bingo online

Famous Art Inspired by Gambling

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful