A Budding Lawyer’s Experience With Kathak And Legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj

The world will not see another Pandit Birju Maharajjee but his teachings will remain a guiding force to many, including a young lawyer like me, writes Shivani Baranwal.


“A human can ditch (you) but your art will never betray you. If you keep it with you, and own it, it will leave you only at the time of your death.”

  • Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj

It is generally unusual for a lawyer to write on topics other than law. However, Pandemic, in recent times, did tell the word how important and crucial it is to be happy and enjoy both the professional as well as personal part of the career. It is time that as lawyers, we all have a well rounded development whereby we combine our technical skill with humanity, happiness and agility. 

Is this not the true meaning enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution ? 

I take this opportunity to share my encounter with one of the greatest form of dance – “Kathak” and the legendary guru of Kathak – Pandit Birju Maharajjee. While the world mourn the death of Panditjee, let me share my experience with him. 

On the day of February 4th, 1938,the world of dance was blessed with a newborn destined to be a legend in the Art of Kathak dance. Descendant of the Maharaj Family of Kathak dancers in India, the child was named ‘Brij Mohan Nath Mishra’ while the world addressed him as Pandit Birju Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana. 

My first experience with the legendary Maharaj Ji was in his institute established at Patna called ‘Ninad’ when I was only an 8-year-old.Walking into the room while Maharaj Ji sat on a stage chair with poise, a Godly figure indeed, in white embroidered kurta waiting for his new students to stand in a formation to learn their first step. The first step that I was honored to have ever learned from him was something called in kathak a ‘Sum’ which is the first beat of an aavartan (tal). And ever since that day of the year 2006 my zeal to learn Kathak whisked and became not just my hobby but also my passion. Back in those days every three to four months I use to get the honor to attendance workshops of Maharaj Ji in which he’d teach and enlighten us with incredible ways of remembering Kathak Bols. His manner of making complex Bols simpler were to relate the Bols with everything in and around us. He’d embolden us to relate Lay, Tal and Kathak beats into anything that interests us in life. One such sui generis was a Tihai with items of Indian cuisines which recites as – “Sabzi, Poori aur Kachori, Halwa La de, Halwa La de, Halwa La de, re”. It is my absolute honor and privilege as I write that Maharaj Ji granted me and my two other co-dancers the opportunity to perform in the annual program of his institute - ‘Kalashram’ called the ‘Sadhana Festival’ in the year 2009.Post this incident I got several tremendous opportunities to dance in and as his Kathak troupe and also share the stage with the Maestro himself. 

Always sowing the seeds of Kathak to grow within each one of his disciples Maharaj Ji was a man who has been kneeling down to the art forever beholding life and creating magic with his voice and moves. Learning under his constant guidance all these years has been beyond compare for me and hands down the biggest achievement of my life. In fact, I can proudly say that the reason I never seized to dance even after joining law school is my guru Pt. Birju Maharaj. His lessons, his fervor for art, his techniques, his each and every movement is what we students call Godly and remembering these is what always pushes me to follow my passion dearly even as an up-coming lawyer. To share his knowledge is an achievement in itself and I strongly believe in his Kathak and life lessons. 

With his ghungroos on his feet the man never had even an ounce of arrogance but rather filled with poise and humility. The Kathak Maestro and a renowned vocalist, Pandma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj can be truly said to be a male reincarnation of Goddess Saraswati. 

The world will not see another Pandit Birju Maharajjee but his teachings will remain a guiding force to many, including a young lawyer like me, to combine my legal training with humanity. The need of the hour indeed is to incorporate Right to Life, under Article 21, to include a Right to lead a happy life”.

( The author of this article is Shivani Baranwal who is pursuing her BBALLB (5th Year) from Symbiosis, Hyderabad. )


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