Legendary Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj, who was known for his expressive abhinaya, died at the age of 83 on Monday early morning. He popularised the dance form in the entire world and didn’t limit it to India.Maharaj-ji, as he was popularly known, was playing Antakshari with his family and disciples in his last times, informed his granddaughter Ragini Maharaj.
She 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.”
“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. He died before reaching the hospital,” Ragini added.
Birju Maharaj belonged to Lucknow’s Kalka-Bindadin Gharana and is survived by three daughters and two sons, and five grandchildren. He started performing when he was a child, alongside his father and became a guru (Maharaj) during his teens itself.
Upon turning 28, Birju Maharaj’s dance won him the reputed Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Among many awards that he won for his mastery of dance, he also received the country’s second-highest civilian honour Padma Vibhushan.