Birju Maharaj – the legend

Padma Vibhushan, kathak master and a multifaceted personality Birju Maharaj, as he was affectionately and famously known as, is no more. He leaves behind a very rich legacy through his life long devotion to this dancing form of Kathak, which for him was nothing but divine as also his numerous other contributions and disciples.

While no article or work can comprehensively cover a lifetime as rich as Birju Maharaj’s in a few lines or pages or even compendiums, I would like to narrate a personal incident. It was the year 1969, when my mother was taking to singing as profession as an upgrade from a mere hobby. She soon realised that to succeed professionally, she’d need guidance by a professional teacher or guru, as we call a music teacher to be ! In came a Guru, the way a Guru was expected to be – clad in bright white, starched kurta pyjama, chewing pan and grace and demeanour that protruded deep knowledge of the subject. Of course, how he dedicatedly trained my mother to make her a famous artist of her time will be a befitting theme for a separate blog, but here I would narrate an incident relating to Birju Maharaj, as aforesaid. Birju Maharaj was apparently a cousin of my mother’s Guru and my mother had a great yearning to meet the great man once she came to know of this relationship. I remember the day when there was a lot of commotion in our one room rented quarter upon being told of the visit by the great man , the legend Birju Maharaj himself. Those were not the days of mobile connectivity – even landlines were a rarity and a luxury. At the destined time, we were on the road near our home looking for a big swanky car that we were told was Maharaj’s mode of travel. Of course, after endless wait, we lost the hope and our Guruji felt very disheartened at being short changed by his cousin. It’s another story that our Guruji finally took his disciple, my mother, to Birju Maharaj’s house for his blessings and guidance to a new budding singer, an occasion that my mother cherishes till day. For me, it remained a big disappointment for not having met the legend from close quarters, who attained newer heights in the days that followed.

I couldn’t help but recollect this unique memory from my distant past, more than half a century old, now that the legend is no more!

Let’s pay our obeisance to this great exponent of kathak, a singer par excellence, a percussionist of high stature, an ambassador of Hindustani dance and music and above all a great human being! I bow my head to Birju Maharaj.

8 thoughts on “Birju Maharaj – the legend

    1. Munish, my mother wasn’t fortunate enough to learn directly from Maharaj. Maharaj’s cousin was her guru but he facilitated a meeting with Birju Maharaj’s for my mother. I have written a follow up blog too, which you will hopefully like.

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  1. I remember I saw this personality on TV off and on. I was probably teen back then, but never understood the importance of an art that india inherited and Birju Maharaj was one of them. Thank you so much for sharing and reviving my memories about such a Great personality.

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