Originated in the West Indies where it was danced only by the lowest classes. The
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Birju Maharaj started teaching the dance form at the young age of thirteen, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. He then taught at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) where he was Head of Faculty, and Director, retiring in 1998  after which he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi. He composed the music, and sang, for two dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khilari, and choreographed the song Kaahe Chhed Mohe from the 2002 film version of Devdas.
He has three daughters and two sons, of whom Mamta Maharaj, Deepak Maharaj and Jai Kishan Maharaj are Kathak dancers. He also has a Grandson Tribhuwan Maharaj.