World-renowned Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj passed away at his residence in Delhi on Sunday, 16 January. The 83-year-old had reportedly suffered a heart attack.
"He was under treatment for the past month. He had sudden breathlessness at around 12:15-12:30 am last night; we brought him to the hospital within 10 minutes, but he passed away," Ragini Maharaj, granddaughter of Birju Maharaj, told news agency ANI.
"With profound grief and sorrow, we inform the sad and untimely demise of our most beloved member of the family, Pt Birju Maharaj Ji," the Kathak maestro's grandson, Swaransh, wrote on Instagram.
"Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, who gave Indian dance art a special recognition across the world. His passing is an irreparable loss to the entire art world. My condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief. Om Shanti!" Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Monday.
Birju Maharaj was a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers and an exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Kathak.
Through the course of his illustrious career, he had garnered many awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Padma Vibhushan, and the Sangam Kala Award, in addition to honorary doctorates from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya and Banaras Hindu University.
"He loved gadgets, always wanted to buy them at the earliest. He always said that if not a dancer, he'd have been a mechanic. His image in my mind will always be that of him smiling," Ragini Maharaj said about her grandfather.
Birju Maharaj had been part of various cultural troupes sent abroad by the Government of India to represent the country at various festivals. He had performed in nations such as Russia, the United States, Japan, UAE, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic, as per his official website.
‘Loss of an Unparalleled Institution’: Adnan Sami, Others Mourn Demise of Birju Maharaj
A number of artistes and politicians, including singer Adnan Sami and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, took to Twitter to mourn the demise of Birju Maharaj.
"Extremely saddened by the news about the passing away of Legendary Kathak Dancer- Pandit Birju Maharaj ji. We have lost an unparalleled institution in the field of the performing arts. He has influenced many generations through his genius. May he rest in peace [sic]," wrote Sami.
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