Birju Maharaj : Birthday Special

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Featuring Birju Maharaj
Featuring Birju Maharaj

Pandit Birju Maharaj (born 4 February 1938 – died 17 January 2022), the legendary Indian dancer of Kathak is popularly known as the ‘Father of Kathak’. His real name is Brijmohan Nath Mishra.

This renowned figure is not only a master of kathak form but a choreographer, composer, singer, and a leading exponent of the Lucknow “Kalka-Bindadin”  Gharana of Kathak dance in India. Along with being a vocalist, he also practiced Hindustani Classical Music and percussion instruments

Birju Maharaj received India’s second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan in 1986. He is the successor of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. This lineage includes his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj.

Kalashram Birju Maharaj : Birthday Special
Kalashram, Dance School in Delhi

Birju Maharaj performed with his uncle, Shambhu Maharaj  at Bhartiya Kala Kendra and later the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi. For several years, he remained the head  of the latter until his retirement in 1998. Also, he opened his own dance school, Kalashram in Delhi.

At the age of thirteen, he started teaching at the Sangeet Bharti, New Delhi. Along with playing instruments like dholak and tabla, he is notable for singing the thumri while dancing to it. 

The mesmerizing Kathak performance by Birju Maharaj not only communicates mythological stories but contemporary elements including stories from daily life and social issues being communicated by way of the dance. His ginti ki tihaais (trans. a charged and percussive phrase, repeated thrice to end with explosive effect) is noted and studied by the Kathak students.

Birju Maharaj collaborated with so many other artists including the tabla player Zakir Hussain, and singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra. Some of his students included Priti Singh, Saswati Sen, Aditi Mangaldas, and Nisha Mahajan.

Awards & Honors

Untitled design Birju Maharaj : Birthday Special
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  • 1964 – Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
  • 1986 – Padma Vibhushan
  • 1986 – Nritya Choodamani Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
  • 1987 – Kalidas Samman
  • 2002 – Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar
  • Honorary doctorate from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya
  • Honorary doctorate from Banaras Hindu University
  • Sangam Kala Award
  • Bharat Muni Samman
  • Andhra Ratna
  • Nritya Vilas Award
  • Adharshila Shikhar Samman
  • Soviet Land Nehru Award
  • National Nritya Shiromani Award
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award
  • Newsmakers Achievers Award in 2017


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  • 2012 – National Film Award for Best Choreography for Unnai Kaanaathu (Vishwaroopam)
  • 2016 – Filmfare Award for Best Choreography for Mohe Rang Do Laal (Bajirao Mastani)


Birju Maharaj choreographed and composed for many Indian films. Some of the prominent performances he choreographed are listed below:

  • Saswati Sen in Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977)
  • Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), 
  • Devdas (2002) and Dedh Ishqiya (2014), 
  • Kamal Haasan in Vishwaroopam (2012), 
  • Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani (2015)
  • Alia Bhatt in Kalank (2019).
choreography Birju Maharaj : Birthday Special
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Birju Maharaj became one of the youngest artists when he received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, at the age of twenty-eight. His choreography for Kamal Hassan in Vishwaroopam won him the National Film Award for Best Choreography in 2012, while his choreography for Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani won him a Filmfare Award for Best Choreography in 2016. 

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