Pandit Birju Maharaj: Another Master Dazzles

Pandit Birju Maharaj
We are indeed fortunate. Soon after being mesmerized by the musical genius of Pandit Jasraj, we were spell bound by another master: Pandit Birju Maharaj and his troupe.

I attend these concerts not because I know anything about these classical arts, but because I don't! I didn't have the foggiest idea who Pandit Birju Maharaj was, or even what “Kathak” as a dance form meant. I attend these concerts to learn. The concert was part tutorial, part demonstration. Panditji and his disciples, Saswati Sen and Mahua Shankar, took great pains to explain each piece, and then demonstrate the rhythms and dance forms. And what a learning it was! An exquisite joy to learn from such a master!

Panditji found the beauty of rhythm in the mundane everyday events you'd encounter anywhere: a mother bird feeding her chicks; the simple sounds of the ghungroo as he walked backstage, a hesitant guy courting his beauty, and even the playing of ball and field hockey. Topics I would not have thought were worthy of dance. But that was the mastery of Panditji. In a sense he reminded me of the works of Claude Monet in his later years. As a youngster, he had painstakingly detailed each bud and leaf from his water lily garden. In his later years, as his eyesight faded, a mere dab of paint here became a bud, a flourish there became a leaf and a squiggle below became the glint in the pond. I for one, thought those later works showed the confidence of a master – confidence in communicating with his audience, without the noise of details.

Rather than write anything more of the performance, I point you to this excellent review by , who attended the concert on the West coast. She is an Odissi dancer and would know what to look for.

But I do have a few pics to share. Note: No flash was allowed and we were a good ten rows back. Color lights shone intensely on the dancers, which played havoc on the digital sensors. And the dancers were spinning like crazy! 😛 With these words of caution, here are a few noisy pics!

A collage of Mahua Shankar.

A blur of Saswati Sen! I told you, she spins fast!!!

Mahua Shankar performing under the approving gaze of Saswati Sen

Pandit Birju Maharaj with Saswati Sen.

I loved the footwork and the twirl of Mahua's ghagra, so I made a few icons. Borrow if you like.

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