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|Kathak Poses of Pandit Birju Maharaj|
The most eminent Kathak dancer of recent times is Pandit Birju Maharaj.
His full name is Brij Mohan Nath Mishra. He is the only son and disciple
of Shri Achyan Maharaj and is a competent inheritor of the Lucknow Gharana.
Birju Maharaj is a very talented and dignified personality. He is a born
artist. During his childhood, he used to keenly watch and imitate various
modes and ways of Kathak while his father used to give dance lessons to
his students. In this way, rather playfully child Birju learned lots of
things. Pleased by his son's achievements, Acchan Maharaj started to teach
his son whole-heartedly. By the age of seven, Birju performed Kathak in
home town Lucknow. It was the first recital in his life. The audience was
spellbound at his wonderful presentation. At the age of ten, poor Birju
lost his father. That was a tremenduous blow in child Birju's delicate
mind. However, he tolerated that tragidy. Then he started taking dance
lessons from his uncle Shri Lacchu Maharaj and Shri Shambhu Maharaj
Later on, he became the teacher of Sangeet Bharati of Delhi. He teaches at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi. He composed many dance dramas like 'Gobardhan Leela', 'Makhan Chori', 'Malti-Madhav', 'Kumar Samvav', 'Phag Bahar' etc. and gained extensive fame all over the country. His talent, dedication, vivacity, innovation enabled him to get involved in thousands of concerts not only in
India but also in different places abroad. Today, whenever Kathak is discussed, Birju Maharaj's name is always raised.
Birju Maharaj has an enormous knowledge in Bol (musical phrases interlinked with drum strokes)-Laya (speed)-Taal (beats). Apart from being a Kathak dancer, he is also introduced as a singer of Bhajan, Thumri, Dadra, Hori etc. and also as a Tabla, Pakhawaj, Dholak, Naal (percussion instruments) player. He fluently plays various string instruments like Israj, Violin, Swar-Mandal, Sitar etc. To be respectful, Birju Maharaj can be introduced as a dancer, musician, composer, teacher, director, choreographer and a poet. He is an all-rounder. In 1986, he received the prestigious 'Padma Bibhushan' tittle from the goverment of India. He also received the 'Kalidas' award. He is also a recipient of 'Nehru Fellowship' in the name of India's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He is an instituition in himself. Currently, he is the chief faculty at Delhi's Kathak Kendra.
He is the father of two very well-known God-gifted talents - Shri Jai Kishan and Deepak Maharaj. He has many able desciples in India and abroad. Saswati Sen is one of the most versatile ones.
Author: Gargi Bagchi
Pt. Birju Maharaj often visits United States. Besides concerts, he gives Kathak lessons through workshops at many places in US and Canada. His future workshop dates will be posted accordingly.