indian cinema heritage foundation

Lachhu Maharaj

  • Real Name: Pandit Bajinath Prasad
  • Born: 16 October, 1901 (Lucknow)
  • Died: 19 July, 1978 (Lucknow)
  • Parents: Kalka Prasad
  • Spouse: Rama Devi

Indian classical dancer and Kathak choreographer, Pandit Lachhu Maharaj won accolades for his choreography of dance sequences in films such as Mahal(1949), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Chhoti Chhoti Baten (1965) and Pakeezah (1972). His ballets Goutam Buddha, Chandravali and Bharatiya Kisan were also popular. Founder-Director of the Kathak Kendra started by the Uttar Pradesh Government in Lucknow, he was also honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest award for performing artists, conferred by India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama - the Sangeet Natak Akademi. 

Born Bajinath Prasad on 16 October, 1901, he belonged to an illustrious family of Kathak artists from Lucknow representing the Lucknow gharana, which has produced stars of the calibre of the legendary Birju Maharaj. Son of the celebrated Kalka Prasad, he trained rigorously with his uncle Bindadin Maharaj, who was a renowned court dancer of Awadh. He performed right from the age of 10. Exceptionally gifted at displaying grace, emotions and sensuality, he is said to have brought untainted innocence to his performances. In addition to dance, he also learnt Hindustani vocal music, the tabla and the pakhawaj. Noted Kathak dancers Acchan Maharaj and Shambu Maharaj were his brothers. 

Moving to Bombay, Pandit Lachhu Maharaj debuted as a choreographer in Hindi films, which helped take the dance form of kathak to a much wider audience. His choreography of the dance sequences in films like Mahal (1949), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Chhoti Chhoti Baten (1965) and Pakeezah (1972) became very popular. The grace of Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam and of Meena Kumari in Pakeezah is a commendable reflection of Maharaj’s attention to detail, expression, and gesture. Other films he choreographed include Kale Badal (1951), Shikwa (1974), and Ghar Ki Laj (1979). 

Honoured with many prestigious awards, Pandit Lachhu Maharaj was also bestowed with the President’s Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest award for performing artists, which is conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. 

Pandit Lachhu Maharaj passed away on 19 July, 1978. In his honour, a two-day festival was organised in September 2007 in Lucknow to celebrate his birth centenary, attended by his wife Rama Devi. A book on him was also released and students of the dance institution he founded, Kathak Kendra, staged a ballet, Megh Malhar. A commemorative postage stamp on Pandit Lachhu Maharaj was issued in 2001 by the Indian Department of Posts.