Born: February 4, 1938
Birju Maharaj is a leading exponent and torch-bearer of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Lucknow. He is the only son and disciple of Shri Achhan Maharaj and is a familiar face of Indian Kathak dance all over the world. He has performed in almost all the countries of the globe. He is a wonderful singer with a strong grip over, Thumri, Dadra, Bhajan and Ghazals. He gave his first performance at the age of seven. Pandit Birju Maharaj is not only a Kathak dancer but also a sensitive poet and captivating orator.
Birju Maharaj was born in the house of renowned Kathak proponent, Jagannath Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana. His father, popularly known as Achhan Maharaj, used to spend much time in teaching young Birju, the fundamentals of Kathak. Birju also accompanied his father to the places where Achhan Maharaj had to go to perform. So, as a result, Birju Maharaj started learning dance forms at a very early stage. His uncles, Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj also guided him in learning the Kathak dance. However, after the death of his father in 1947, the family moved to Bombay. There, he mastered the different aspects of the Kathak and other Indian classical dance forms. At the age of thirteen, he was invited to Delhi to teach at Sangeet Bharati.
Birju Maharaj, the master of Kathak, taught in Sangeet Bharati, Bharatiya Kala Kendra and headed the teaching faculty Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) in Delhi. After his retirement from Kathak Kendra, in 1998 Birju Maharaj started his own Kathak and Indian fine arts academy, Kalashram.
Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj had a dream of opening a dance-school and Kalashram is the real-face of the dream. In Kalashram, the students are trained in the field of Kathak, and other associated disciplines like vocal and instrumental music, yoga, painting, Sanskrit, dramatics, stagecraft etc.
The classrooms, practice halls and amphitheatre of Kalarshram reflect a shade of rural setup in the busy and fast urban lifestyle. The natural atmosphere, with numerous trees and ponds would be extremely inspiring and would bring everyone close to the simple, unassuming but rich heritage of the country.
The objective of the institute is primarily to produce highly talented students who would not only prove worthy of the training they receive, but also live as modest, humble and disciplined members of today's society.
Pandit Birju Maharaj has won several honors and awards including the coveted Padma Vibhushan (1986). He has also been awarded with the Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Sangam Kala Award. In 2002, He was the recipient of the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskaar. Pandit Birju Maharaj has also been conferred with the honorary Doctorate degrees from Banaras Hindu University, and Khairagarh University.