Pandit Birju Maharaj, legendary Kathak dancer, no longer among us
Legendary Kathak dancer, Pandit Birju Maharaj, passed away in the early hours of Monday, his granddaughter Ragini Maharaj confirmed. He was 83. The veteran performer was at his home in Delhi, playing a game of antakshari when he suddenly fell ill late in the night. Maharaj is survived by five children—three daughters and two sons—and five grandchildren. May his soul rest in peace.
Speaking to news portals, Ragini said, "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." Maharaj had also been suffering from a kidney ailment and was undergoing dialysis treatment.
As soon as Maharaj showed signs of uneasiness, he was taken to the hospital but died on the way there. "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," Ragini, who is also a Kathak dancer, said. The veteran would have turned 84 this February.
Alongside Ragini, her younger sister Yasyashashwini and two of the Kathak maestro's disciples were present with him in his last moments, as per Maharaj's granddaughter. "He was laughing and smiling in his last moments," she added. As soon as the news broke, condolences poured in from all sections on social media. Netizens, along with noted celebrities, paid tribute to the legend.
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
Belonging to the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, Maharaj's first major solo performance was at Manmath Nath Ghosh celebrations in West Bengal, per his website. Starting from the tender age of seven, the Kathak exponent used to perform at musical conferences all over India. The Padma Vibhushan recipient later took on the world, performing in Russia, the US, Japan, Austria, France, Germany, and Italy.