Legendary Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj has passed away, news agency ANI reported on Monday, citing his relative. He was 83.
"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 mins, but he passed away," his granddaughter Ragini Maharaj told ANI.
His image in my mind will always be smiling, she added.
Birju Maharaj was an exponent of the Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Lucknow.
He was born as Brij Mohan Nath Mishra on February 4, 1937 in a well-known Kathak dancing family. Besides father Achchan Maharaj and uncles Shambhu and Lachchu Maharaj, he was shaped by the influence of Bindadeen Maharaj.
He began performing as a child alongside his father, and became a Guru (Maharaj) in his teens. Birju Maharaj also performed in the durbar of Rampur Nawab.
By the time he was 28, Birju Maharaj's mastery of the dance form had won him the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Known for his perfect rhythm and expressive abhinaya, or gesture language, Birju Maharaj developed his own unique style. He was known as a brilliant choreographer, and he helped popularise dance-dramas.
Birju Maharaj was the recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to the performing arts, including one of the country's highest civilian honours, the Padma Vibhushan in 1986.