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Pandit Birju Maharaj (b.1937) is perhaps the foremost exponent of the country's Kathak dancers belonging to the Lucknow gharana. Son of well-known Kathak dancer Achchan Maharaj and nephew and student of Shambhu Maharaj, Birju Maharaj made his mark in the arena when he received the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi award at the age of 28. He has mastered the various nuances of Kathak from Acchan Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj and developed his own unique style. In his own words, Birju Maharaj has likened Lacchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj to the moon and the sun, and Acchan Maharaj to the sky. Combined they form his universe of Kathak. He has several honours and awards to his credit including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan (1986) by the government of India and the Sangam Kala Award (2000). At present Birju Maharaj heads the teaching faculty at Delhi's Kathak Kendra.