Old clip of Pandit Birju Maharaj touching student’s feet resurfaces

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Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj, who died of a heart attack on Monday, left an irreplaceable void in the art world. As tributes pour in from all quarters, an old clip of Maharaj, often affectionately referred to as a “guruji”, is going viral.

A Twitter user shared the footage showing the maestro touching a little girl’s feet. “Big respect to beloved #BirjuMaharaj ji. You and #Kathak are not two different things to me (sic),” Sarvan_K86 tweeted.

The short clip shows the revered Kathak guru first giving the girl his blessings with a tika on his forehead, then hands him a set of ghungroos or anklets worn by dancers during performances. During the ritual, he is seen reaching for the blessing of the anklets, then asking the girl to place her feet together before touching them.

“You see, a guru only touches the disciple’s feet once. However, the disciple must continue to do this in pursuit of his art,” he says in Hindi.

In any form of classical Indian dance, ghungroos are considered sacred and dancers always worship them before donning them for a performance. Before going on stage, the dancers offer ghungroos to the deities and then to the guru to invoke their blessings.

When it comes to receiving ghungroos, it is an important day in the life of a dancer because it marks the new beginning of his discourse. It is a ritual called ghungroo daan, where the guru, elders and well-wishers come together on an auspicious day and offer the anklets to the deity before handing them over to the shishya (disciple).

Birju Maharaj’s video started going around various social media platforms leaving everyone emotional.

Born Brijmohan Nath Mishra, Birju Maharaj dominated the stage with his impeccable footwork and emotive, stylized Kathak-style storytelling. Maharaj once recalled that he was only three years old when he walked to the taleemkhana where young students learned to dance as well as the harmonium and tabla.

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