Pandit Birju Maharaj died at the age of 83 at his home in Delhi. The shocking news came in as he breathed his last in the early hours of Monday, 17th January, 2022.
According to reports, he was playing ‘Antakshari’ with his disciples and two granddaughters when he suddenly fell ill. He could have been a victim of cardiac arrest, says his granddaughter. Pt. Birju Maharaj had been suffering from kidney ailment and was already under dialysis treatment.
The legendary Kathak dancer, referred to in the industry as ‘Maharaj-ji’, belonged to the Maharaja family and was trained under the Lucknow gharana of Kathak. He was India’s one of the best performing artists and the recipient of the second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.
Reports on Pandit Ji’s Death at 83
Pandit Birju Maharaj was already suffering from kidney ailment and had to undergo dialysis treatment last month due to high diabetes. He also had heart troubles as pointed out by one of his granddaughters.
“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.”
“This happened between 12.15 and 12.30 a.m. 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,” Ragini Maharaj said.
“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 in his last moments,” she said.
Pandit ji would have turned 84 on the 4th of next month.
Reactions From the Fraternity
Reactions poured in from the fraternity as the maestro bid his last goodbye to this world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “Deeply saddened” by this news and expressed his condolences on Twitter.
भारतीय नृत्य कला को विश्वभर में विशिष्ट पहचान दिलाने वाले पंडित बिरजू महाराज जी के निधन से अत्यंत दुख हुआ है। उनका जाना संपूर्ण कला जगत के लिए एक अपूरणीय क्षति है। शोक की इस घड़ी में मेरी संवेदनाएं उनके परिजनों और प्रशंसकों के साथ हैं। ओम शांति! pic.twitter.com/PtqDkoe8kd
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 17, 2022
President Kovind also labelled the incident as an “end of an era”.
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 contribution to popularise Kathak globally. Condolences to his family and admirers.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 17, 2022
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman described the artist as a “legend of performing arts”. Composer Adnan Sami said, “We have lost an unparalleled institution in the field of the performing arts. He has influenced many generations through his genius.”
Anupam Kher uploaded a video on Twitter reminiscing his days at the NSD with Birju Maharaj.
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPKher) January 17, 2022
Legacy of Pandit Birju Maharaj
Brajmohan Maharaj or Birju Maharaj came from the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. He was from Lucknow’s ‘Kalka-Bindadin’ Gharana. He trained under his father and guru Acchan Maharaj and uncles Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj.
His contributions to films like Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Devdas, Dedh Ishqiya, Bajirao Mastani has taken Indian Cinema to a whole new height. Other than being a Kathak Maestro, he was also a legendary hindustani classical singer, composer, lyricist and percussionist.