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Unfolding of Several MeToo Allegations in Kathak Circles Following Birju Maharaj’s Demise

Following the recent demise of the octogenarian Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj on January 17, several #MeToo allegations about the late dancer and others in Indian classical dance circles have surfaced on social media.


Silverscreen India is currently investigating the claims.

“Serial sexual harasser Birju Maharaj, whose unchecked predations drove away so many students from Kathak, dies at 83 without being punished or even formally called out by the Indian classical dance community,” wrote Amba Azaad on Twitter on the day of Maharaj’s demise.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Azaad said that while she herself is not a victim, she has heard a story first-hand of “Birju Maharaj demanding sexual favours from his student” and has also heard three other stories from “people trusted by the victims.”

“I have heard many, many more stories through the whisper network. But none of them are my stories to tell and so far, none of the many people who have been violated and intimidated by him are willing to go public. I stand by what I said in my tweet,” she added.

A day later, Kathak dancer and teacher Naina Roychowdhury took to Instagram and shared what she had heard from her own guru.

“As tributes flood my feeds honouring Birju Maharaj, I can’t help but reflect on my own experiences with him,” Roychowdhury wrote, before going on to narrate what she had heard from one of her gurus, who had learned as a child alongside Maharaj and his senior disciple Saswati Sen. “Saswati Didi would cry to me on my bed and tell me stories of how BM (Birju Maharaj) would ask her to find more young Kathak dancers, some of these girls were teenagers, and she would weep as they often appeared into his bedroom, sometimes two at a time.”

Saswati Sen is a renowned exponent of Kathak, who used to perform with Maharaj and also teaches in his institute Kalashram in New Delhi.

Since then, Roychowdhury has been sharing several more accounts from different anonymous survivors.

According to Roychowdhury, the survivors, some of whom were minors at the time, texted her personally to share stories of the sexual harassment they faced during their careers in Kathak specifically, and also in Indian classical dance and music in general.

As per one survivor’s account, once, during a regular class, Maharaj made some of the students sit beside him and she could feel “his erection” on her left elbow. The survivor added that she quit Kathak as a result of the experience. “At the time of the alleged assault, the survivor was a minor,” Roychowdhury wrote.

Silverscreen India reached out to another Kathak dancer, Saberi Misra, who belongs to the 11th generation of the Jaipur Gharana. Misra, who grew up in this field and has been part of the Kathak world since birth, said, “The stories that are coming out are not new and I am not surprised. Yes, it is shocking, disgusting, and a horrible crime. But, it is not new to me.”

According to Misra, the more “disgusting” aspect is “the silence of senior artists because most of them know about this.”


“Not just Birju Maharaj, but this whole thing, about many such incidents and many such artists. And because of the silence of the senior artists, we are also taught to be silent and that’s just being passed on from generation to generation,” she added.

She further said “these dark stories” are not just prevalent in the dancing world but also in Indian classical music as well.

“This is very, very common in this field, actually. I have heard stories, but more importantly, I know people who have been subjected to and been victims of this. Not just from Birju Maharaj, but people from the Kathak world generally, and also in the classical music world.”