The legend, the "Emperor of Kathak", Pandit Birju Maharaj, ascended to the abode of the Devas on January 17, 2022. In the wake of this tremendous loss, social media platforms have been flooded with tributes, live performances, and panel discussions. An eight hour memorial service was held on his birthday anniversary (February 4th) at Kalashram, his teaching institute in New Delhi.
Maharaji is acclaimed for his talents not only as a dancer and teacher, but as a choreographer, vocalist, percussionist, instrumentalist, composer, painter, and poet. He was remembered most fondly for his charm, childlike wonder, humor, and lively imagination. It was this quality of imagination that audiences and students of all ages and nationalities reminisce about with such affection. They delight in his keen observations of nature, animals, and people, from which he would improvise spontaneous and often humorous parodies. (For example, a bird's call would inspire him to create a rhythmic tihai. Or he'd see two friends walking, with one versus two hair braids, and would imitate how that changed their gaits.)
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