Our journey in kathak ,our passion to travel and passion for classical dance form
drived us to Lucknow and many other places of interest which could help us with the past history and the birth places of the legendary gurus .Padmabhushan Pt. Birju Maharaj has great contribution as an educator, performer and has delivered his expertise in
media too whenever required .His experience is through three generations and belonging to the Paramparik family of Kathak gurus and
creators their contribution in spreading classical art has been immense and has gained popularity all over the globe.Since I practise kathak and am always a learner I personally the subject needs in depth study of various aspects of the form be it Angika Abhinaya,Sattvik Abhinaya,
The chattered abhinaya and the approach for music,Vayakari and the salient elements of kathak,A form which is considered open in approach yet has its set of rules and framework and can be a research and experiment topic wise.a cultural heritage tone preserved ,treasured and passed through a number of generations.
With me, writer and Theatre person Anjali Ramanna a scholar also acknowledges the same and has scripted the paper as we see the heritage and culture through our eyes and mind.
A writer who has a lot of books to her credit and awarded for her travelogue is a scholar and social reformer too heading Astitva legal trust.Indebted and thankful to her contribution to the research paper.
A joint effort by both of us as literature and dance always go handing hand.
Special Thanks to Anjali Ramanna.
About Pt Birju Maharaj :
Pt. Birju Maharaj was born on 4 February 1938 in Lucknow. Initially his name was ‘Dukh Haran’, which was later changed to ‘Brijmohan’, a synonym of Krishna. Brijmohan Nath Misra was shortened to ‘Birju’, which remains the name he is fondly known by.
Surrounded by a musical atmosphere, his inborn talent surfaced at the early age of three years, when he would playfully sit on his father’s lap and recite tihais and tukras, oblivious of the fact that they were complex pieces.
The sound of the music and dance emanating from the taalimkana (classroom) was enough inspiration for young ‘Birju’ to devote himself wholeheartedly to dance. Though he was too young to receive formal training, he would watch carefully when his father taught his disciples. Acchan Maharaj recognized the talent and took him under his guidance.
His father performed at musical conferences all over India and by the age of seven, Birju Maharaj had accompanied him to Kanpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Dehradun, and even far off places like Madhubani, Kolkata and Mumbai. He got the opportunity to share the platform with his illustrious father, who allowed him to present a few pieces before he himself came on stage.
Acchan Maharaj shifted to Delhi to teach at Sangeet Bharti. Birju Maharaj, then eight years old, enthusiastically imbibed all activities at the centre. He became proficient at dancing, singing and playing the tabla. Acchan Maharaj shifted back to Lucknow with the family due to the communal riots, which raged all over the country during the pre-independence period.
His father died soon after leaving nine-year-old Birju under the guidance of Shambhu Maharaj. The following years were full of struggle and household goods were sold to make ends meet. He spent about ten months in Mumbai learning from his uncle Lacchu Maharaj. At the young age of thirteen, he was invited to join Sangeet Bharti in Delhi to teach Kathak. Soon he established himself as a good dancer and dedicated teacher.
Acchan Maharaj spent most of his time practicing his art and teaching his students and Birju Maharaj still a small child, imbibed a great deal by observing. Recognizing the inborn talent of his son, Acchan Maharaj gave him the opportunity of performing with him at an early age. Even though Acchan Maharaj passed away when Birju was nine years old, he left an indelible mark on him.
Birju Maharaj’s mother Amma ji lived at the ancestral house in Lucknow. Having lost his father at a very young age, he was very devoted to his mother. Even after shifting to Delhi he spent the summer holidays with her, patiently listening to tales of the days gone by, of his childhood and the brief period spent with his father.
As was the custom of the times, the women stayed in purdah and had nothing whatsoever to do with dance. Since the sounds of music and dance were a part of her surroundings, Amma, remembered a surprising number of musical compositions of those times. Coaxed by her son she sometimes came forward with uncommon and previously unheard lyrics, singing them coyly. In this way, Maharaj ji came in possession of some invaluable compositions and got glimpses of his childhood, through his mother’s eyes. Respected by everyone, she continued to live at the ancestral house in Lucknow until her demise
Pt. Birju Maharaj has three daughters Kavita, Anita and Mamta and two sons Jaikishan and Deepak. Kavita though a very talented dancer learnt only for her creative satisfaction and never took it up professionally. Anita is a painter and artiste. Jaikishan, Deepak and Mamta are professional Kathak dancers, carrying forward the family tradition. Mamta is more inclined towards teaching while Jaikishen is an established choreographer in his own right. Deepak, the youngest of the five, holds considerable promise as a solo dancer
Birju Maharaj’s first major solo performance was at Manmath Nath Ghosh celebrations in Bengal in the presence of stalwarts of music. He received recognition as a young dancer with great potential. He never looked back after that, his career graph rising steadily.
His solo dances became an integral part of any musical conference of repute and no musical conference was complete without a performance by Pt. Birju Maharaj.
Not only in India, he is also known abroad, nearly all over the world Even in the early part of his career, he was part of cultural troupes sent abroad by the Government of India to represent India at various festivals. He has extensively toured all over the world i.e. Russia, U.S.A, Japan, U.A.E., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc. for performances as well as lecture-demonstrations
He is often called upon to perform at the Rashtrapati Bhavan at special functions and in honour of foreign dignitaries.
A recipient of the country’s second highest civilian award – Padma Vibhushan – Pt. Birju Maharaj is a living legend and an institution himself.
A measure of his genius is the fact that at the young age of 28 years, he received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, besides several other prestigious awards like – Kalidas Samman, Nritya Choodamani, Andhra Ratna, Nritya Vilas, Adharshila Shikhar Samman, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Shiromani Samman, Rajiv Gandhi Peace Award.
He has been conferred with Honorary Doctorate degrees from Banares Hindu University and Khairagarh University
A genuinely dedicated teacher, Birju Maharaj explains the technique in detail with the help of similes and metaphors until the student gets the nuance right. The result is the uniformity of style in his disciples. Time is never a constraint, with the classes going on well past the stipulated time limit in order to achieve excellence. He has hundreds of disciples who are actively pursuing Kathak all over the world. He Gandaband Shaagirds aare Shri Pratap Pawar, Shri Munnalal Shukla, Sushri Prabha Marathe , Sushri Saswati Sen, Sushri Kiran Chouhan and Sushi Mahua ShankarGandabhandhan is a ceremony in which a devoted and dedicated disciple is tied a sacred thread by the Guru, with the blessings to carry forward the mantle of the Gharana, Guru and the style.In earlier times, usually this tradition was restricted to family members only, but now the Guru chooses a few selected disciples as the ones expected tO devote their life to the pursuit of the art.
Pt. Birju Maharaj is fond of relating stories and anecdotes from his life. He has an inimitable style and narrates some favourite ones even on the stage during lecture-demonstrations. Many are stories from his childhood, about how he went miles on foot for his first tuition, he used to trouble his father by putting ice on his stomach, how the two uncles analyzed his dancing style, etc.
One is about a performance in Jhansi where he had to make up compositions on the Rani of Jhansi galloping on a horse, in order to keep the audience interested. On one instance, he played the tabla and harmonium during a Radio programme. Another one is about his brush with the supernatural and many about the spirits in old Lucknow.
His description is so vivid that it makes the spine tingle. Some are humorous while others have a message to convey
About Nritya Sadhana:
Nritya Sadhana is a unique opportunity to train under the Maestro in an Ashram-Gurukul Environment. He will be assisted by his most senior disciple, Saswati Sen. The Program integrates Maharaj ji’s impeccable dance training with energizing Yoga, powerful breathing techniques, blissful Meditations, rejuvenating Ayurveda (an ancient healing science) and much more! A special feature will showcase Maharaj ji’s choreographic works as a tribute to Maa Shakti.
The program will be conducted in the tranquil, beautiful and serene surroundings of the The Art of Living International Center. The campus is spread over 65 acres, with an abundance of flowering foliage spread along winding footpaths, a peaceful lake and the exquisitely beautiful architectural wonders.
At this point I would like to mention In this journey of going deeper ,in the pursuit of acquiring more knowledge of expression and Bhava through the recitation also called as “Vaikhari” , Sanskrit word.I also had the opportunity to watch some films made by Doordarshan and the Prasar Bharati like “ The open Frame”
and study the views of the directors .The film Vaikhari is a film produced byPublic service Broadcasting Trust(PSBT) and directed by Lubdhak Chatterjee under the guidance of Guru Parwati Dutta , Kathak & Odissi artist, Director – MAHAGAMI has also studied under Pt.Birju Maharajji
The opportunity to interact with the scholars and researchers like Guru Parwati Dutta widened mu understanding and interest to pursue a story telling dance form,”Kaatha kahe so kathak”
Vaikhari is a film, produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and directed by Lubdhak Chatterjee under the guidance of Guru Parwati Dutta.
Vaikhari, which in sanskrit means intelligent and articulate utterances, primarily focusses on “padhant” which is the art of recitation of mnemonic syllables used in Hindusthani Classical Music and Dance. The film incorporates different artistic streams in allusion to padhant thereby aiming at a profound aesthetic experience of rhythmic utterances in its multiple manifestations.
I understood in detail that the Recitation of the rhythmic and emotional utterances of the abstract syllables .eg:If we have to express the scene depicting arrival clouds other than hand movements show it in Recitation.(The vachika abhinaya ) of the dance form.
Will be grateful to the artistes like Guru Parwati Dutta and Vidhushi Shashwati Sen disciples of Pt. Birju Maharajji who have documented and provided a lot of study and research material for the aspirants and scholars and educators
A HISTORIC EVENT IN THE CITY OF ‘TEHZEEBee’ LUCKNOW
“I had thought of this museum for Binda Deen ji, years ago and I had visualized it as something similar to Gandhiji’s Museum in Porbandar, ab itni barso baad E kaam pooraa hO paaya” said the Kathak icon Birju Maharaj ji at the inauguration ceremony of World’s First Kathak Museum “Kalka Binda Deen Deori “at Mishra bandu Marg, Lucknow.
4th February 2016, on the day of Maharaj ji’s 78th birthday the most memorable event in the cultural History of Lucknow happened through presenting a Museum consisting of Library and other tangible materials related to his gharana and the art to the public and Government of Lucknow.
Chief Guest Smt. Arun Kumar kori, Cabinet Minister for Department of Culture for the state inaugurated the Museum and expressed it’s a proud moment for the people of Lucknow to have such unique Museum for Kathak, the art which is as ancient as the city. Before inaugurating the Chief Guest took a tour of the museum along with Smt. Anita Meshram Minister and Director of the department of culture, .Shri Yogendra Narayan the ex-minister and Shri Roopchandra of the Department of Progress and Development.
The museum is architected very aesthetically and designed very skillfully in small chambers. The “Tulsi Vrindavan” and the tiny well at the entrance itself give the feel of Lucknow’s rich heritage of Kathak. The wall behind the main door of the place is decorated with dancing pose of Maharaj ji succeeds in opening up a window of
Kathak to the visitor. The Foyer of the Museum is filled with framed photographs of ancestors of Birju ji in different colours and moods. The adjacent cozy rectangular puja room invariably asserts the humbleness which is a must with any artist. The spread of ghungroos like a necklace along with an antique bell welcomes one to the rhythm and elegancy of Kathak .
The walls of every room depicting the pictures of Maharaj ji’s plight in the universe of Kathak urges the visitor to long for past glory. The concert hall displays an exemplary collection of his pictures with many connoisseurs of many fields. The picture gallery displayed throughout the staircase makes one feel the richness of culture. To make it more pupil friendly many Audio clippings are played and Videos are shown constantly.
Smt. Saswati a dedicated student of Mahraj ji for last 49 years who is considered as Maharaj ji’s shadow continued to be so in the event and proved to be the voice of the evening. It was indeed an emotional moment to see the grand children i.e., the 8th generation of Birju ji’s family to witness the event and it was visual treat to watch Maharaj ji himself dancing with the disciples of Kathak who were present in the event with genuine enthusiasm.
Lucknow city which has given a neo dimension to the World Culture, now is on the threshold of contributing one more feather to the cap of Heritage of World through this place, the only Kathak Museum of today as claimed.
It also describes and connects to the Gurushishya parampara of India.
The archives and contributions of the legend to the Parampara is his gift to the coming generations for taking dance to another level and prospects.
Anjali Ramanna(Writer,Theatre artiste and lawyer)
Veena Bhat(Founder ,Nrityadarpan)Kathak artiste and teacher,member of international dance council(CID)